Archive for October, 2013

Lavender and the Rose CoverMy sincere thanks go to all of you who have written to me over the years, or commented on my novel The Lavender and the Rose. First published in 2008, I’ve been revising it this last few weeks, with a view to putting it up on Smashwords. As always, it’s been a pleasure hooking up with these characters again, and reminding myself of what we got up to back then. The Lavender and the Rose is a special story for me, being also the record of a shift in my personal, psychological outlook – no longer hanging on, but letting go; no longer maintaining a tight grip on who and what I thought I was, or wanted to be; no longer afraid of revealing what I might actually be, underneath. Instead I record in this story, a gloriously mad splitting apart into all the varied fragments of myself – bits I vaguely suspected were in there, and bits I was entirely unaware of.

A man is walking alone at dusk in the remote hills of Westmorland, an ancient county in the North of England. Coming down to a quiet mountain tarn, he discovers a woman, dressed entirely in Victorian costume, apparently waiting for him:

“Are you real?” I breathed, half expecting she would turn to smoke and disappear.

I remember she focused upon me with one eyebrow slightly raised, querying, challenging, inquisitive: “What would you do if I said not?”

She sounded real enough. “I don’t know. Are you telling me you’re not real?”

She lowered her gaze to the waters of the tarn. “Not at the moment,” she said.

“Then I’m seeing things?”

“Yes, I’m pure fantasy.”

I’m not sure what the remaining two hundred thousand words will read like to anyone who has not lived this story, as I have lived it. It will be compellingly mysterious I hope. Most commentators have said kind things about it, and it’s from this I take comfort that I am not imposing something on the world that is merely self indulgent. That said, it is a literary novel, not a thriller; if you’re expecting guns and fast cars and globe trotting assassins, you’ll probably find it a bit turgid.

It is a story in the Romantic tradition, and an explanation to myself why it is I feel and think and see things the way I do. Its genesis marks also the point at which two distinct personalities emerged from my psyche – the day-job Michael, and the other, the one who writes and who is gradually taking over the primary host personality. I am becoming him, as the characters in the Lavender and Rose also became something other than their host personalities. Or perhaps these were the people we were meant to grow into anyway, but something stopped us along the way.

The day-job Michael lives his regular sort of life, a nine to five, modern sort of life, a life spent mostly fitting in with the world of forms, which means doing things that are incomprehensible to him. This used to make him ill. He was sure he wasn’t meant to live that way, and aspire to nothing greater than what the material world seemed to offer. In tackling the Lavender and the Rose, the Michael who writes escaped, and began to live the kind of life the day-job Michael needed him to in order for them both to survive. Balance was duly restored, but only by adopting a view of life that was distinctly old fashioned and Romantic.

Romanticism is a very long essay with only vague conclusions. But it contains within it a spiritual philosophy, loosely defined and having no real interest in belief, nor evangelism. I am a mystic. I sense a connection between an essentially immortal part of myself and the universe, and I choose to both explore and express that connection in ways that are distinctly off-piste. I find clues to it in Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, also neo-paganism, and Hermeticism. But I find it too in art and in the natural world, its pulse running through all things. But it is a presence realised only when the world is viewed through the lens of the Romantic imagination.

The grand old age of Romanticism was officially declared over in 1850, coinciding with the passing of William Wordsworth. But nobody informed the Romantics, and there are still a lot of us around.

The Lavender and the Rose was a great pleasure to write and has been a great pleasure to revisit. It’s available for free in various formats at Feedbooks, or in its newly revised edition – containing fewer typos, I hope – at Smashwords.


Michael Graeme

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you are being watchedIn George Orwell’s famously dystopic novel, 1984, we find the hero, Winston, living in a society where everyone must conform to a set of essentially inhuman values, their obedience monitored by an all-pervasive surveillance machinery. Failure to conform to the “collective message” results in corrective torture, or death.

Winston is disturbed to find himself subject to the repeated scrutiny of a mysterious young woman. Such is the endemic paranoia of this society, Winston jumps to the only reasonable conclusion: he’s in trouble, and the woman, Julia, is an agent of the state, trying to catch him out.

In fact, Julia is simply in love with him.

With the misunderstanding cleared up, Winston and Julia begin an affair, but in being together, and in loving one another, they neglect their overriding love of “Big Brother”. The story then unfolds in a compellingly unpleasant way, both Winston and Julia being arrested, their humanity stripped from them, their love broken by corrective torture, and their love for big brother restored to its primacy.

There’s a lot in 1984, but one of the messages for me was the danger of relying upon society alone in defining one’s personal values – that obedience to the law, without also a sense of our personal responsibility towards each other as compassionate human beings, is indeed the road to a dystopic future. It’s this sense of compassion that must come first, and only when it’s failed, does the law provide a fallback and prevent us from sliding into anarchy.

But societies are not imposed upon us by aliens from outer space. They are conceived of by people like you and me, each of us doing the things we think are right at the time. And for this reason it’s important we’re never afraid of what we think or say or do, for then we end up saying or thinking or doing only those things we imagine we’re permitted to say or think or do. And suddenly you have a world in which both the individual and society meet on terms that are mutually delusional. Again, that’s the road to a dystopic future. It need not be imposed, it can happen as the result of a misunderstanding.

I’ve written before about the plethora of surveillance cameras in our towns and cities. When you see them, you can’t help but think of the visiphones of 1984. The effect of both overt and covert surveillance is insidious – not simply on account of the data we imagine might or might not be accumulating on our every move, but because the Cyclops machines make us think differently about ourselves, about the world, and our place in it.

I came to this conclusion when I realised surveillance isn’t restricted to our urban areas. I was out walking in the countryside and came upon this rather striking “You Are Being Watched” notice pinned to a telegraph pole. It was next to a meadow that has lain fallow for years. Its purpose eluded me. There was another, further on, pinned to a gate.

Was this a warning to would be farm-thieves who might be thinking of making off with combine harvesters and tractors? Or might it have been a warning to keep to the path, to keep out of the field? I’m not sure. The warning was ambiguous, and one was tempted to fill in the gaps, to imagine all sorts of creepy scenarios. Who was watching? And why were they watching me? Were there tiny cameras hidden in the trees? Was there a spotter drone circling overhead? I rather doubted it. But the impression given was that I’d better behave myself, or something bad would happen. My son was even nervous about me taking a photograph of the sign in case I was seen on that secret camera and an armed response unit suddenly dropped from the sky – because I was behaving suspiciously, and lacked due respect for “the message”.

We imagine this massive machine with a million eyes, like the visiphones of 1984. But it’s not real. As well as instilling an irrational guilt into the general population, it does something else, much worse – it robs us of our self reliance, it makes us abdicate responsibility for what goes on in society to this mysterious “authority” with its network of all-seeing visiphone eyes. But just because there’s a camera looking at you, it doesn’t mean there’s anyone at the other end scrutinising the data coming out of it. I might have stepped back into the path of a passing tractor being driven off at speed by farm thieves, been knocked to the ground and left there bleeding. But it’s very unlikely the incident would have been captured in real-time, and an ambulance dispatched to my aid by alarmed “security officials”. The images might have been available for inspection at some point in an effort to identify the miscreant, but for now I’m lying in the road and thinking to myself if someone’s really watching, then why aren’t they helping me?

The message of surveillance is you’re being watched. Sure. But so what? Don’t let it poison you. Don’t let it get to the stage where, like poor Winston, the next time you see a person watching you, your assumption is that you’re about to be carried away in the middle of the night to your personal room 101. That person might just be in love with you, and it would be a shame if your paranoia had you passing up on such a wonderful opportunity to express your humanity.


Let’s not forget to love one another first, and never mind Big Brother.

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Office politicsIf you want to be be taken seriously you need to be able to write clearly, use good grammar, speling, and clear up as many tpyos as you can. Easier said than done. Three errors in that one sentence alone! The occasional typo might be forgiven, but if your work is littered with them, you can’t expect to win many readers to your cause.

The main problem with self editing is this: as a writer, you know what you think you’ve written. But writers also develop a blindness to their words, so they look at a sentence and overlay what is physically written with an image of what they imagine is written.

I’ve been dipping into my novel “Between the tides”, self published last year, and I’m still finding typos. Note to self: Must do better! I’m not big on hints and tips for writers, since I’ve hardly made the bigtime, and my work is frequently riddled with editing bugs that serve only to highlight my own shortcomings in this respect. But here goes:

1) Spell checkers are useful. Turn them on. Spellcheckers won’t correct bad grammar of course. “Their” “There” and “They’re” are all correctly spelled but so often found in the wrong places.

If you’re writing in English, stick to your native version. American English is most prevalent on the internet, but UK writers shouldn’t be confused or intimidated by that. Whatever your version, stick to it. Be consistent.

2) Show your work to someone else, and give them a red pen. They don’t need to be an expert, and you’re not asking them to comment on your style, nor even how good they think your work is. They’re simply a fresh pair of eyes, unblinkered by an author’s blindness to his own errors. I guarantee they’ll find errors you’ve missed.

Having said this, I don’t do it. It’s asking a lot – fine for a few thousand words, a short story or an article, maybe, but if it’s a two hundred thousand word novel, that’s a serious favour. If you’re like me then, you end up falling back upon your own sluggish wit. So:

3) Shake things up a bit. You’re used to seeing that text laid out in a certain way on screen, so before you run your eyes through it yet again, change the font. If the text is justified, unjustify it and vice versa. Change the paper size so the lines get chopped up a different way. Change the text and and page colour. If it’s a short piece, print it out – there’s nothing like printing out for highlighting your sins.

This re-presentation of a text means it will no longer fall into the subliminal patterns your brain has already made for it, so the occasional elusive typo has has a chance of poking you in the eye. Spot the mistake there? (double has)You probably did. I only found it on the umptheenth reading – decided to leave it in.

4) Don’t make it a chore. Remember, as writers, each time we run our eyes through a piece of text, we’re breathing life into it, we’re feeling the pulse and the rhythm of it, like playing a piece of music over and over, each time finding something new. And we get to change the notes as we go along, find new harmonies, new emphases, new shapes. It’s a stage in writing, and an enjoyable one. It just happens to be a good opportunity to spot our mistakes as we go along.

5) Let it cool. Don’t be in a hurry to publish. As a speculative or self publishing writer, your deadlines are imaginary anyway. Save your work, then forget it for a bit. If it’s a blog piece, don’t publish the same night. Leave it until tomorrow or the day after, or the weekend.

Allowing the writing to cool we also allow the subliminal patterns in our mind to dissolve, so next time we pick it up we no longer overlay a piece with what we imagine it says. We see exactly what it says, and that can sometimes come as a surprise.

After all of that, at some point we have to let it go. So trust in yourself, in fate, in the good nature of your reader, and and publish!

Editing is more than just tidying up typos of course – especially when we talk about writing fiction. That’s a complex business and people write books on it – use of passive language and adverbs, continuity, homogeneity and stuff like that, all of which I’m guilty of bodging, so the least I have to say about that the better.

Graeme Out

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We’re about to start work on a new nuclear power station, at Hinkley Point, here in the UK. Built by a French company and with a large injection of funds from China (though I note none from the UK itself) this massive engineering project is due to start feeding energy into the national grid by around 2023. What’s interesting is that in order to attract all this overseas investment, the plant is already contracted to charge around £90 per megawatt-hour. Roughly translated, that’s double the cost of energy today, and that’s worrying because our wages won’t be double what they are now in 2023. Indeed, I’ll probably have retired, so my projected earnings will be significantly down. Not up.

When I look at my outgoings, power is the biggest hit, next to council taxes. We can shop around for energy of course and try to get a cheaper deal – indeed the PM suggests we do. I’ve already done it, but I’ve found the savings are minimal. And rather than bringing prices down year on year, the energy free-market seems to level itself up to new highs – all of the suppliers being about the same. It’s plain to me that the cost of energy will be one of the main factors in shaping the lives of ordinary people in the years to come, and that so called fuel poverty will be one of the main economic brakes on society – unless we all do something that simply does not compute.

If I were to indulge in a little futureology, I’d say we shouldn’t be too downhearted; there was once a world before the national energy grid. People used oil-lamps and candles, and went to bed when the fire went out, and the house was too cold to sit up any longer. They walked to work, or rode horses for longer distances. This doesn’t bode well for job mobility, but who likes those long commutes anyway? They burned a lot of coal in the olden days of course, and that’s a carbon no-no, but there is an alternative!

What about all that wood?

I’m sure it’s no coincidence there’s a surge in sales of wood-burning stoves at the moment. Of course, wood is one of the most expensive fuels on the planet, but only if you buy it from commercially farmed sources. You can get wood from other places too, pick it up from the beach, from the forest, break up that old pair of wardrobes – you can even grow your own. Yes,.. wood can be free!

But in light of the risk of this future self help energy free-for-all, I’m sure we’ll see strict legislation on where we can source our wood, otherwise all the trees will be disappearing from the parks, and the commons, and people will be squabbling on the beaches over bits of driftwood. My local forests are already cleared of windfalls on a regular basis by  wood burning energy scavengers. I can also see we’ll have to introduce a tax on wood too, with sensible exemptions for DIY and other non-combustible wood uses. It sounds complicated and open to abuse, like all tax systems and I’m sure there’ll be the usual abusers, but it’s not beyond the wit of man. It will work.

There’ll be a rise in burglary cases, of course, where the only things taken are our wooden furnishings – hardwood in particular for its excellent burning properties and its superior calorific value. Oak is in fashion at the moment and therefore particularly vulnerable to black marketeers lusting after our chairs and dining tables. On the upside, wood is carbon neutral, but on the down, it makes a mess of your washing when it’s on the line and the guy next door is stoking up his burner. Hot water for washing clothes and body parts is a problem of course – back-boilers were notoriously inefficient and slow to heat even sufficient water for a bath, but washing may be deemed not strictly necessary in the near future.

Solar panels are dropping in price too, and it would be a good idea I think to invest in portable arrays for charging up our low powered tech, then I can still get on WordPress, but for cooking and heating, there’s no viable alternative to all that black-market wood. Perhaps coppicing will be a good venture for anyone with a bit of land, and an eye for the shady back-hander – willow’s a fast grower, burns well, and grows just about anywhere. Remember, you heard it here first.

Unfortunately all of this is nonsense. If it’s a £100 per megawatt hour or £200, we’ll have to find a way of paying it, but with so many other seriously greedy demands on our earnings, it’s hard to see how we can maintain our standards as consumers, when the last fiver in our pockets will be needed for the candle that lights our way to bed. No use the far east churning out goods by their millions if we have to wind the clock back two centuries just to make ends meet.

Goodness, the house is cold tonight. Chuck another chair-leg on the burner, dear. What’s that? All gone? Oh, never mind then, I could do with catching up the extra sleep. Always hated that dining room furniture anyway!

Sweet dreams

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Suburban writer


In one room,
A television blares,
Celebrity, glittery, claptrap,
Getting on my nerves.
In another a Playstation,
Yells “shit and fuck”,
While guns ratatat,
And men are blown up.

In another room,
An old guitar,
Labours over and over,
The same few bars.
Doors slam and bang,
Lights flicker.
Querulous voices;
Teenagers bicker.

No peace in the house tonight,
No respite from the din,
Just this cold back porch,
Where the noise can’t get in.
Two jumpers and blankets,
Machine in my lap;
It’s the only place left
Where a writer can tap.

But the muse will not join me,
She won’t be seduced,
So it’s to my own slow brain,
At last I’m reduced.
I’m as ever devoted,
I’ve answered the call.
But I know nothing will come tonight,
Nothing at all,

So just sit with me here,
I beseech her, and breathe.
Let what’s sacred between us,
This tired heart receive.
And maybe tomorrow,
In a quieter place,
I shall know once again,
The gift of your grace.


tree of life painting

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lord byronI’ve been reading a lot of poetry recently, all of it self published, through the WordPress blog, and I’m enjoying it.

We have plenty of dead poets, their words filling the dusty tomes of the past.Theirs are the voices we know best, theirs are the poems we learned by heart at school, and we all have our favourites. Some of those dead poets attained a degree of fame and celebrity in their lifetime, others despaired, self published their works then died in poverty, only to become revered by later generations. Sadly though most of those self-published were never heard of again, and their works are lost.

Even sadder, things have gone from bad to worse for poets and poetry. There are no lucrative publishing contracts any more, no more celebrity poets of the stature of the great Romantics, and the days of publishing by subscription are also the quaint relic of a bygone era, replaced by a rancid mire of disreputable vanity publishers and other dubious “author services”. So the smart poets are moving online. They’re setting up blogs. They have  dayjobs, and post their poems for free, by night.

While to the uninitiated, this might seem futile, little better than keeping your poems in a drawer, these poets have readers, they have followers. Their comment boxes are full. They have fans! But these are not household names, not poet laureates, nor holders of court in literary circles. They’re simply people in touch with themselves and their muse. They write well, and often, and their persistence has led to a quiet popularity among their peers, to say nothing of a dedicated online readership. Their poems are not to be found in glossy hardback in select bookshops – no – it’s much better than that; their poems are on the phone in your pocket.

So, you “follow” a poet you like and their poem pops up in your reader. You read it, and the poetry then becomes a part of your day. I have lots of books of dead poetry, but I rarely read them now, because time is pressing, and that’s a pity because it’s the daily exposure to poetry that’s the magical, all-important thing. It lifts you to another plane, snicks your head into a different gear, a different way of thinking and seeing.

Poetry is not meant to be an inaccessible literary form, one to be picked apart by highly educated critics in tweed jackets and bow ties. It’s meant to be a voice that everyone can listen to, a voice that everyone can hear. If a particular poet doesn’t speak to you, don’t think that it’s your fault for being slow or insensitive or lacking in poetical finesse. You can always find another poet who will touch you. The most effective poets have a way of cutting through the surface of life and exposing a jewel of emotion, a thing that can alter mood, and coax our brainwaves onto that more subtle frequency, put us in touch with a higher innate sense. But for all of that, poetry is about daily life, about the experience of our lives, and our reflections upon it.

The myth of poetry is that it is elitist, that only those who have done it at college can really understand it, that only those few poets who have escaped a merciless drubbing at the hands of pinch faced critics have a voice worth listening to. I failed English literature at O-Level, forty years ago, then went on to a career in a technical discipline void of anything even remotely artistic, but my ignorance of literature does not prevent me from enjoying, or connecting with books, or poetry, or indeed any other art form. Nor should it prevent you.

Art keeps the balance in our lives, and a balanced life knows no despair.

If you have a drawer full of poems, would like others to read them, but can’t find a publisher, consider blogging them. It’s an unlikely medium, I know, but one that’s catching on. Whatever you do, don’t pay someone else to publish them for you, or you’ll end up seriously out of pocket and with nothing to show for it but a crate of hardbound copies cluttering up your garage.

People read blogs, and they’ll read yours. And if you’re just not into writing poetry, consider following a poet’s blog instead. You’re sure to find one you like – just search WordPress Poems. Their voices can be a real balm for the soul as you set out into the grey fog of your morning commute. So find yourself a poet and let them in, or better still, find the poet inside yourself.
A poem a day,
Keeps the greyness at bay.
You too are a poet,
Though you might not know it.
So please don’t be shy.
Give blogging a try.
It’s really good fun
And the readers will come.
With apologies to Mr. D. Oggerel


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detail - girl writing by daniel garber 1917There’s a lot of ignorance regarding the kind of people who self publish (losers) and those who have conventional publishing contracts, and sign their books in Waterstones (proper writers and gurus of all things literary). If I were ever to make the mistake of bragging about my writing to strangers, the first question to come back at me would be “are you published?” and by published we mean the glossy paperback in Waterstones. The answer would be no, and the conclusion would be that I was not a proper writer, just a “yakker and a bragger”, as a famous American writer recently opined.

But my figures for the past three years tell me my books have been downloaded around a quarter of a million times, so I think I can safely say that, although I’m not published in the conventional sense, my work has reached a wide audience. It also receives generally positive feedback from readers. So, perhaps it’s our definitions that need to change. Perhaps it’s those who insist on conventionally published glory at any price who are the yakkers and the braggers – they who are responsible for perpetuating the myth that the conventionally published form confers upon its neophytes a greatness that self publishing does not.

The publishing industry has now congealed into just a handful of big companies. Like the rest of commerce, it’s all gone very slick and corporate and image-conscious. Books and their authors are cosmetically modified into marketable brands – even those authors who speak out against such things. When we buy a conventionally published book from the highstreet, we are buying into the myth of the author and their brand, but like with those toothpastes that slowly dissolve your teeth, we can sometimes be disappointed, even with what we thought were household names.

Writing is of course the perfect medium for the shy, the introspective, the wall-flowers and the pathological limelight dodgers of this world – but I’m not describing your typical branded author here. The type of personality who takes well to writing is not necessarily the type who takes well to publishing. I recognise, in my case, it’s more of a blessing I was never invited to join in with that world, that indeed self-publishing is exactly my sort of medium. But we self publishers must also grow up, shed our insecurities and accept we’ve as much idea what constitutes proper writing as anyone else.

Through self-publishing or blogging or even tweeting, the process of publishing has become – for want of a better word – democratised; anyone can do it, anyone can add their voice to the cultural milieu. Indeed, I think talented writers who were formerly denied their voice have now begun to move writing on, through self publishing and blogging. They are shaping the milieu, and wrestling the lead away from that quaint old system that used to dictate what was considered proper writing in the first place.

Perhaps it’s not surprising the world of corporate publishing and their branded authors are busy demonising the online world, trying to make out that it’s content is so puerile it will rot our brains. But don’t listen. The internet does not have a monopoly on poor material, just as the corporate publishing world does not have a monopoly on intelligent debate.

One of the greatest strengths of self-publishing is its interactivity. You put something out, people comment, you learn from it, form new ideas or reinforce old ones, and you comment on their stuff. This is how ideas grow and flow, and shape the world. That has to be better than having a handful of branded authors and critics dictate what is and is not best practice, or best thought. That just seems old fashioned.

I do not possess a sexy publicity photo, and I have yet to be shortlisted for the Man-Booker prize. My ideas and my themes may not resonate, and they might never feature in the firmament of collective human thought, but as ideas go they’re as good as anyone else’s. And so are yours. How to be an independent author?

Sit down. Read. Think. Write. Self-publish.

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man writing - gustave caillebot - 1885So, you have this thing you’re interested in and you want to write about it, or you like to write stories, or poetry. Maybe you’ve even tried to find an agent who’ll hopefully find you a publisher, but it’s all gone wrong. Years have passed, and your dreams of sharing your ideas, your enthusiasms are in tatters. What now? Well, it’s simple, and since you’re reading this, the answer is staring you in the face: self publishing online. Become an independent author, and cut out those elusive middle men.

You still have this thing you’re interested in and hopefully the experience of trying to get a publisher hasn’t stifled your enthusiasm for it, nor scarred you too deeply in other ways. So, do your thing, write your book, then look up DIY self publishing outlets like Feedbooks, Smashwords, Wattpad, or Amazon’s Kindle Marketplace, and get yourself a blog too, like this one. It costs nothing.

These are all basically websites that allow you to upload your writing. They then host it for free, for ever. Too good to be true? I mean, what’s in it for them? There has to be something, right? Well, yes; they sell advertising. Or if you’re using a website that allows you to charge for your work, they’ll cream off a percentage. In the case of Feedbooks and Smashwords, your free books also lure readers in where they might linger long enough to explore the paid content.

Writing for free, Feedbooks, Smashwords and Wattpad are all good options. Blogging is also free of course, unless you opt for premium packages. Blogging adds exposure for you and your work, and gets your name into that all important Google box, though it can take years for a blog to gain traction. Mine’s gone gradually from nothing to about a hundred views per day in three years, so you need to be patient. But good blogging’s a skill, one every writer should be familiar with nowadays, and it’s interesting learning the ropes as you go along.

If you want to charge your readers to download your books, Amazon or Smashwords are the ones to go for. But remember, if you charge for your work, you won’t get as many downloads, and probably not enough to make a living at it anyway. I’m not saying you can’t make a living self-publishing, but you’ll need to spend a lot of time promoting your work – or you may be lucky and go viral. These are all ebooks of course. Paper’s still an option, through the likes of Lulu.com, but I think our attachments to paper are nostalgic and, as fond of paper books as I am myself, I no longer see it as a progressive medium, I write exclusively for portable devices now. That’s where most of the readers are. How so? Well, I found you didn’t I?

But self publishing isn’t proper publishing, is it, and especially not giving away free ebooks? Well, it’s a matter of opinion. In the olden days, if a writer was frustrated in his attempts to publish conventionally, he might have been tempted down the route of vanity publishing. This means he basically pays a printer to print his books and then he tries to sell them himself, or give them to friends and family. The test of success though is in how many of those books he sells to strangers. It sounds dodgy, and it is, but a surprising number of writers in previous centuries started out that way and became famous – though too often only after they had died in poverty, believing themselves to be failures. There are some parallels between vanity publishing and self-publishing in that one’s success is measured by the number sales, or if selling is not your aim, then in the number readers who download your book.

Writing is easy, conventional publishing is not. Conventional publishing is almost, but not quite, impossible and It renders you vulnerable in a world that can seem at times a very cruel and lonely place. Think of self publishing as a safer option – but only if you keep your hands in your pockets. You may not get rich, indeed, writing as an independent author you may make nothing at all, but you won’t get shafted either.

And readers will find you.

That’s the how of it, and I hope you can see it’s quite simple really. The why of it is more complex, and important, and follows next time.

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fortune telling“Why prove to a man he is wrong? You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win, you lose it. You will feel fine. But what about him? You have made him feel inferior, you hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgement, and his self-respect.” *

So Deepak Chopra reminds us in his introduction to Dean Radin’s latest book: “Supernormal”, in which Radin turns the spotlight of scientific rigour onto the so called siddhis – the paranormal side effects reported by experienced meditators – things like Psychokinesis, Presentiment, and Telekinesis.

You don’t believe in this sort of thing? Perhaps those words even embarrass you? Well, just hold on,… belief isn’t a word I like to use. I need to have a reason for my thoughts, and that comes down to a mixture of knowledge, experience and – yes – intuition as well, but I think there’s a body of evidence now we can no longer ignore. But I’m not going to argue about it, and neither is Dean Radin. Radin seeks instead to build a body of evidence so large it cannot help but change formerly skeptical minds, like mine. Supernormal Perception? Materialism is wrong? How do you get that message across in the face of overwhelming prejudice to the contrary? Well, you don’t. You simply present the facts, and hopefully at some point the other guy, like me, will think it was his idea all along.

For now however, Materialism remains the prevailing scientific paradigm. It tells us we are the sum of our material parts, that even our thoughts are due entirely to mechanisms going on in the goo of our brains. According to this materialistic doctrine, our consciousness, our sense of self, is an illusion. In short we do not exist. But how can that be right? Of course we want there to be something more to the world than its materials, we want there to be something more to ourselves other than the goo in our brains. We want the ghost in our heads – the thing that keeps telling us we’re real – to be telling the truth: that we do indeed exist!

Materialism has been a successful way of looking at the world. It’s taken us from horses and carts to automobiles and aeroplanes, and from printing presses to the internet, but its core assumption that “material” is all there is renders it blind to evidence to the contrary, renders it dismissive of anomalous experience, renders it unable to grasp the idea that consciousness might actually be real, that it might be independent of any currently understood material paradigm. Thus materialism crosses the line from reason into more of a belief system. Then, like all belief systems, it runs out of steam, stranding us at a point in our evolution where it feels safe, but is unable to move on, unable to address anything other than what it already knows.

But there’s a growing body of evidence now that suggests materialism is an incomplete model of the way things really are. Materialists still pour scorn upon it because that is their nature, but the emerging picture is this: that the mind can indeed sometimes see around corners, that we do indeed have premonitions of future events, and we can indeed alter outcomes in the here and now simply by the power of the mind. The evidence resides, not in one or two flamboyant individuals with mesmeric stares and peculiar tastes in clothing, but in the population at large. It is a small effect, but reliably demonstrable in all of us. And Dean Radin, among others, has been demonstrating it for decades.

It’s nothing new. The evidence has been around since the 1930’s, and merely grows ever more persuasive with each fresh pass. Nor is this evidence anecdotal – it’s based upon thousands upon thousands of published trials, subject to scientific rigour and statistical analysis. But such is the power of the status quo, this is a body of work largely unknown, even today.

Why is any of this this important? So we can read minds at parties and amaze our friends? So what? But, if we can show that the mind is not confined to the brain – and I think we can – if we can show that its reach extends beyond the body and that it can extract information from the environment at a remove in both space and time – and I think we can – it has profound implications for our view of what the mind is, and how the universe works. It also changes our ideas of what we are, and how we might be capable of evolving.

The end-game of Materialism is intrinsically pessimistic: there can be no happy endings; the disintegration of organised matter is fact; we are all going to die and that is that, and the vast majority of us will live and die, our lives unnoticed. But to have confidence that one can explore the world, psychically, to intuit it, even to shape it, to be an integral part of it by virtue of the mind alone, places each of us back at the centre of our lives, and at the outset of a great adventure into the new and the mysterious. It also grants us the power of a self determination, and a psychical integrity that Materialism has long denied us.

It’s a dangerous idea.

We should be careful who we tell.

*Dale Carnegie – 1888-1955. Writer, motivational speaker, lecturer, author of “how to win friends and influence people”.

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