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Magic and wonder and phone boxes and WARREN ELLIS and Oh My…

‎** Exec Summary: There’s a book being published, it’s really rather awesome, it includes things by me. It is here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/960264226/red-phone-box-0 It has nothing to do with Amazon.com. You have two days to help us by buying a copy. I will love you. There is a great free reading of a story by a Scotsman on the Kickstarter site as a bonus. **

They say that art is theft*… I know you’ll all have plenty of less worthy ways to spend your hard-earned cash, so by all means, if you really need that ivory back-scratcher, or a seventh pint, or that third pair of flouro-pink bike shorts, feel free to stop now. If however, you understand the dire and shifting state the publishing industry is in — dominated as it is by despotic corporate overlords like Amazon and Apple Books — then please, read on.

So.

Red Phone Box (our book, my book, The Book), is finally on its way.

Ok… Well, almost.

If you want to help support 30 different struggling writers and artists; or you just want to support a mate regardless of his dubious status; or you really don’t give a toss and just want a wee story by Warren Ellis — Warren Ellis the English writer and God of Setting Things on Fire with Whisky and Matches — on your shelf; or you totally don’t care about Warren Ellis or the book but would really like a poster by the legendary Ben Templesmith; or for any other reason that makes you feel amenable, then please go here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/960264226/red-phone-box-0

So, it’s really only a few measly pounds we’re asking you to hand over. For the effort of clicking your mouse three times, which is significantly less effort than wading through this tripe you’re currently reading, you can even get a copy of the book, and/or a poster, and maybe a couple of mostly worthless signatures, and the eternal gratitude of a bunch of writers you’ll never meet, but who I assure you are probably very nice.

You can also nab yourself a free copy of the opening story of the book, written by terrifying Aussie (and *theft victim) Gethin Lynes. There is also an embedded reading of the story at the bottom of the page, read by Scottish writer Iain Lowson. There’s a whisker over two days left to help us get up the funds to push the book into bookstores. That would mean the world to everyone involved…

Besides, even if I say so myself, it’s a rather fine book!

Posted in authors, book.


Perfection

Writing isn’t easy. As soon as you pick up your keyboard (so to speak), the demons come slamming down. “How dare you?” “What’s the point?” “It won’t be perfect!” “Why bother?”

Why bother writing? Well, the thing is that perfection is not the goal.

Perfection is the enemy.

The Enemy.

(1) Perfection is impossible. There is no perfect. Writing is not a thing of absolutes; there are no hard rules to meet. Nothing will ever be perfect. Nothing can ever be perfect. Try to release the feel that you need to reach for it; as well try to write your way to the sun.

(2) Perfection is incremental. Much though it feels like it, the words you write are not carved into your flesh. No good piece of writing ever came out onto the page fully-formed. Words can be honed and polished time after time if that’s what you want. There’s no limit. After two rewrites, the Revision Police are not going to kick down the door and shoot your monitor. Give yourself permission to be rough around the edges.

(3) Perfection is meaningless. Even internally, the definition of what might be perfect varies moment to moment. The idea of anything being perfect to more than one person (or for longer than an instant) is just self-delusion. It’s the voice of authority telling the little child that they have to be ‘good’, as if that had some sort of objective definition.

I know these things are fairly obvious, intellectually. But it can take a bit of effort to make yourself believe it. Say it with me: “There is no perfect. There is no perfect.”

I’ve been writing books for twenty years. The answer to “Why bother?” is that writing is fun. Dreaming up people, places, worlds, histories, situations, relationships… that’s great fun. Wrestling with words to get sentences that do what you need and sound half-good too. Watching situations play out. Being surprised by characters who don’t do what you expect. Getting the gunk out of your head and onto the page. It’s all glorious.

Is it going to make you a gazillionaire? Almost certainly not. Is it going to make your life feel magical? Oh hells, yes.

So really, please, try not to worry about perfect. Every word makes you a better writer, and there’s no text that can’t be improved by a good editing. Every piece will have an audience of some sort — even the worst possible shades of crap. Maybe it won’t earn you money. But what it will do is make your soul sing.

Posted in writing.


The Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth

My latest book, which was released yesterday, is the Great Global Treasure Hunt on Google Earth.

I’m not going to bang on about it in this post, but the basic idea is that it contains a series of puzzles. Each puzzle — text with a lavish accompanying illustration — contains clues to one specific concept, quality, object or other meme-like notion. The answer is linked with (embodied by, found at, associated to) a physical place on Earth. Looking at the solution’s physical place using Google Earth will reveal patterns that can be found in the illustration, confirming you’re on the right track. Then, taken together, the answers to all the puzzles form the clues for one last puzzle that will lead you to the final treasure spot. The winner will get a 50k euro prize.

Although I’m still on my normal twitter account, @ghostwoods, I’ve also got a Treasure Hunt-specific twitter account, @Dedopulos. I’ll be answering questions there, mentioning interesting stuff, and giving occasional hints. When I have longer pieces of information to reveal, I’ll probably do it here and put links up there, assuming that Carlton, the publishers, agree.

In other news, the novels I’m publishing via Ghostwoods Books are doing nicely. If you haven’t had a look at them, and you like genre or speculative fiction, you should definitely have a peek. They’re very reasonably priced, fully up to professional grade of course, and getting good reviews on Amazon. You can click on the links to the right to read full details and a decently-sized free sample of each one.

Posted in book.


Know Your Memes: SOON.

“Soon.” A sinister figure stares out of the photo in what should be an utterly innocuous moment. Whole worlds of evil threat are lurking there in the eyes, in that unholy grin… Evil plans are about to come to fruition.

Unusually for a meme, SOON can be damned creepy, and it is that context which makes it amusing. It was started by the lolcat forum icanhazcheezburger.com back in ’07. It kinda languished there for a while, but started picking up last year. In the last few months, best-of compilations have started to appear, bringing the concept out into the wider web.

To save you having to go look for them, here’s a selection of some of better ones!

Posted in horror, internet.


Formatting eBooks

So. Formatting a document for ePublication. First and foremost, this stuff is EASY. It can take a bit of time, but it’s well within your grasp. Please, don’t pay anyone else to do it for you unless you’ve got money to throw around and really can’t be bothered.

The most useful tool in the eBook publishing fight is Calibre. It’s free, so go get it now :)
http://calibre-ebook.com/

Calibre will convert stuff for you to just about any format. Which is nice. To get your docs ready for it, prepare a Word file and save it as HTML. If you’re not using Word, the info below still applies, but I can’t vouch for how clean the html output will be from your word processor of choice.

Anway, specifically, prepare your book in one single Word document as follows:

  • Use fonts sized to 10, 12, 14 and 18 points only. 10pts equals the kindle’s default text size.
  • Left-align, with justification and hyphenation turned off.
  • In Tools / Options / General / Web Options / Encoding, set the encoding to UTF-8.
  • Strip all tabs, double spaces and multiple lines of blank space from the document. This really is important. Quick way: in the edit/replace pop-up, replace ^t with nothing, ^p^p with ^p, and two space characters with one space character. Alright, I admit it, the double spaces won’t screw the formatting up, but nowadays they make you look clueless.
  • If for some reason you’ve put in manual breaks at the end of each line of the page, I’m afraid you’re mad, and you definitely need to take them out again. Paragraph breaks at the end of each paragraph. Nothing else.
  • Set the line spacing to single and the paragraph before/after extra spacing to zero.
  • Put in CTRL-ENTER hard page breaks at the end of a chapter (as opposed to trusting it to a style definition).
  • Use word styles to define yourself chapter headings, indented body text, and all that other good book-style stuff. If you want blank lines before or after certain elements — or want stuff centered — now is the time to do it. For example, I have a style for those # # # spacer lines that has a 12pt gap both before and after the paragraph.
  • Make a note of the style name you use for the chapter headings. Don’t use it for anything else, and make sure no other style is called something that includes that name as a sub-string. So if you call it ‘chapter’, don’t have anything else called, say, ‘achapter’ or ‘chapter-small’, or what have you.
  • If you choose to not indent the first line of the paragraph after a break — and well done for choosing wisely — pick a separate style for first paras and put it in manually. Yes, it’s a pain. Sorry. You’ll need to remember the style name you picked and, crazily, actually give it a first line indent of, say, half an inch. This is the opposite of what you want, but it is because Word is stupid, and we’ll need to tweak it later.
  • If you want to know how it’ll look on a Kindle, change the text font to Trebuchet 10pt, which is a close comparison. Different Kindles have different screen sizes, so don’t worry too much about the size of a page as such. So long as you don’t have any 3″+ single words, you should be fine.
  • If you want people to see your title/author/dedication page as a default, put the first line — and only the first line — of that page in your chapter heading style.

OK, that’s all the formatting you need to do. Save it by selecting:
Save As / Web Page, Filtered (htm, html)

This option gets rid of most of the vile cruft Word tends to spatter HTML files with. It’ll give you the usual “SAVE YOUR FILE LIKE THIS AND CROCODILES WILL EAT YOU!” warning, but just go ahead.

For your next trick, if you do want your first paragraphs without indentation, we have to do some very simple HTML editing. You need a decent text editor though. Notepad++ is wonderful, and free. Go get it here: http://notepad-plus-plus.org/

Open up the .htm file Word exported, using Notepad++. In the <style> section at the top of the book, you’ll find <font definitions> — oh, those wretched font definitions — and then <style definitions>. Find the style you used for those first paragraphs. It will be a line starting p.THISISTHENAMEIUSEDFORMYSTYLE, li.THIS… &c

Inside the definitions for that style, beneath the curly bracket, there will be a line saying:

text-indent:_SOMETHING_;

where something could be, say, 28.3645pt or 0.5in, or what have you. Change that to 0pt. Zero points, if your browser makes that looks like a little o. Y’see, Word feels that a 0pt indent is the default, and thus doesn’t need saying; but plenty of e-Readers think that indented text is the default, and that 0pt does need saying.

Anyhow, don’t worry, that’s all the HTML editing you should need. Save the file.

Now you can import it into Calibre. Open up Calibre, Add Book, and select the .htm file. It’ll add it to your library, and say that it’s there as a ZIP, and probably call it something like New Book by Unknown.

Select the book, and click Edit Metadata. Put in the correct title and author, select browse in the area next to the blank cover to pick a cover image — for the Kindle, you want it to be 600×800 — and also put in any other info that you want: publisher, date, genre tags, &c &c. Then click OK.

Finally, to Kindle it, select the book and click Convert Books. In the top right corner, select the output format MOBI. You have plenty of other options for other eBook readers too, should you want.

You should have already sorted the Metadata and any cover that you want, and most of Calibre’s default settings are fine, so there’s not too much to do. So go to the table of contents tab. Make sure the “Number of Links to add to table of contents” value is at least one higher than your number of chapters.

Then click on the sparkly wand icon to the right of the blank line that reads Level 1 TOC (XPath expression). In the ‘having the attribute’ box, put “class” (without the quotes); In the ‘with value’ box, put the name of your chapter font. Then click OK at the bottom, and Calibre will create you a .mobi file.

If you have a Kindle yourself, Calibre can transfer the book to it for you, or you can just open up the Kindle in Windows Explorer and drop the file in the ‘documents’ folder. You’ll be able to use ‘go to’ to move to the Table of Contents — and from that through the chapters — or to the cover, or whatever. The book will open by default at the first of the entries in the Table of Contents (which is placed at the back, by the way). So, if you did put the first line of your title page in the Chapter style, it’ll open there. If you didn’t, it’ll open straight into the first chapter.

And that really is all there is to it. Easy.

One last thing to note is that if you have your own table of contents already built (in Word, say), I have no idea how to get the Kindle to recognise it. It is theoretically possible, using a ‘toc’ tag, and the web is full of ‘useful’ solutions to the problem, but I spent several days trying them exhaustively, and none of them were any use whatsoever. The only thing I found that worked was having Calibre auto-generate the TOC. So cut your losses, and let Calibre do it.

If you really insist on a self-made TOC, I gather it _does_ work using the TOC as a separate file, and creating the .mobi using MobiPocket Creator (also free, from http://www.mobipocket.com/en/downloadsoft/productdetailscreator.asp) but I am completely unable to help you with any of that!

Posted in epub.


And now… Kittens.

Everyone likes kittens. More or less, anyway. So to apologise for my long absence, and to ease myself back into the hot-seat gently, here is a small selection of kitteny cuteness.

You’re welcome.

Sensible(-ish) blogging will resume here — at the latest — on Monday.

I’ve also re-started my entertaining* pollgame, The Great Game, with a new episode this evening. It’s an ongoing twice-weekly sci-fi/horror story where you choose what happens next at the end of every instalment, and I obediently go off and write about whichever path you’ve decided for me. I’m clearly a glutton for punishment. Anyway, you can find it here. Please do go have a look.

* it keeps me entertained, dammit!

 

Posted in animals.


Should be back soon.

Hi again folks.

So, I’m not dead. I don’t appear to be in any unusual risk of shuffling off the mortal coil, either. Which is nice. I stopped posting because I was laid flat with bronchitis, but it’s been arthritic pain that’s stopped me resuming over the last month. In other words, I’m OK, just ouchy. I’m scheduled to start the next level on the treatment pyramid within a couple of weeks, but I’m hoping to muster the determination to resume service here before then. Honest!

So thanks for sticking with me — and many, many thanks for your well-wishes and concern — and the Great Game and Ghostwoods will resume soon.

Fabulous.
The Foams!
It’s not Lupus.
Meanwhile, in Japan…

Posted in personal.


Sorry for the break in service.

I’m a sick bunny at the moment. Normal Ghostwoods service will resume as soon as I’m feeling less dreadful :/

A Sick Bunny

Posted in personal.


The Tree in Action: Visualisation

Visualisation is the art of training yourself to see images vividly in your mind’s eye. As such, it is one of the most important skills you can develop for future work with the tree, because it will make your meditations significantly clearer and more absorbing. It requires no preparation. Make sure you’re not going to be disturbed for five minutes and make yourself comfortable physically, sitting or lying down as you prefer. Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths. Concentrate on your mind’s eye, and imagine the number ‘2’. Picture it in your mind’s eye, in white, as if it was written in chalk on a blackboard. Just concentrate on it, and keep it in mind.

When you feel that you have a fairly firm mental hold on it, add another digit next to it. You can pick one at random, or select digits from a number that has meaning to you, like your telephone number. Remembering to keep the ‘2’ vivid, hold the second number next to it. When it is stabilised, add another number, and then another, and keep going until you can no longer hold the whole number simultaneously in your mind’s eye. At that point, start back from the first ‘2’, and try building back up.

During your first attempts, you may find that even the initial ‘2’ is wavering and difficult to keep hold of. That’s perfectly normal; visualisation is not something that many of us practice. Keep at it, and you’ll find that you quickly improve. When you can hold an entire ten-digit phone number steady for minutes at a time, expand your horizons a little. Imagine the surface of your mind’s eye really is a blackboard, complete with chalk dust and a wooden frame. Rub a number out and replace it with something else. Fill in the rest of the classroom that the blackboard is in. Finally populate it with attentive, polite, quiet little children.

If you can hold the image of an entire class – with individual children in specific places – and still retain the numbers you started with, then you’ve mastered visualisation. You can move on earlier though if you are impatient to give up visualisation training, but make sure you can at least envision the blackboard and the wall it is mounted on. This is likely to take several weeks.

You’ll find that visualisation is easier some days than others. Factors such as fatigue, when you last ate and even the moon’s phase may play a role. Look back over your notes and see what correspondences you can identify. As well as the critical benefits your meditations will receive from well-trained visualisatory ability, be aware that when you work with images in your mind’s eye, you are painting pictures with the very fabric of Yesod itself. It is the essence of everything that Yesod is.

Posted in kabbalah, magick.


Yesod, Foundation

Pure Intelligence: “God said: ‘Let us make man’”

The ninth sphere of the Tree of Life, Yesod (pronounced yeh-SODD) means ‘Foundation’, and it is the first sphere that Malkuth connects to, the place of interface between the state of just being and the wisdoms represented by the rest of the Tree. It is also known as Tzaddik, righteousness. Yesod is described as the ‘pure’ intelligence because it is the final product of the rest of the Tree, just prior to its ultimate embodiment into the chaos of the world through Malkuth.

To understand Yesod, it is necessary to look at its position on the Tree. It is often identified with the moon, and like the moon, it reflects the light of the sun/soul from its home in Sephira 6, Tiphareth, straight down to the earth/body in Malkuth. It is also connected to the Spheres of thought and feeling (Hod and Netzach, 7 and 8 respectively), but it lies below their level, close the unthinking instinct of Malkuth.

In other words, Yesod is the sphere of the unconscious. It integrates the past with the urgings and tendencies of the higher soul, and blends that material in with conscious thought and feeling, feeding the resultant material to the self. This is a realm of the imagination and the unconscious, of phantoms, dreams, legends and horrors. Self-awareness begins here, in the dim memories of past pains and glories, and the inherited needs of the soul.

The Cat in the Mirror

Yesod receives all of the urges and imaginings generated within Malkuth. It is a sphere of illusions and phantasms, as infinitely malleable as Malkuth is stubbornly inflexible. The past lives on here, in patterns cast by prior events and thoughts – not just individually, but collectively as well, for after all, we are all one. When you look into your mind’s eye and work with your imagination, you are manipulating the stuff of Yesod. When you dream, this is the sphere that you wander through. Yesod is a place of unbridled creativity, where anything can be brought into existence and given a chance to show itself. This is the realm of the psychic and the astral – a place of possibilities rather than truths.

Without the influence of Yesod, there would be no house for the influence of the past, no place for common understanding, no way for the light of the divine to touch the world. Formation takes place here; patterns filter down to Yesod from the rest of the Tree and are turned into blueprints by which Malkuth can bring them into manifestation. All that is and was lives on in Yesod’s reflections. This is the home of symbolism, hidden meanings and desires, and all manner of images and chimera.  It is the path by which the divine light of the soul is able to make itself manifest within the world, for if it shone directly onto Malkuth, that beauty of Tiphareth, the pure house of the soul, would sweep away our free will in a bright burst of divine love. Every soul yearns for completeness, for the return first to Tiphareth, and then up to Kether and unity with God. If that completion were enforced however, there would be no room for growth or understanding – it would be as if God had never Sundered himself in the first place.

So, by acting as a confused, misty mirror for the glories of the soul in Tiphareth – as well as the fires of the mind in Hod and the waves of emotion in Netzach – Yesod allows Malkuth, with all its imperfections, to remain in existence. Without it, the entire universe would be swept back up in the rapture that is Kether, oneness with God. Yesod is a dark, twisted mirror, but it has to be, because the light that it reflects is so intense.

Be aware though that like any other mirror, Yesod reflects both ways, and while it does distort the glory of the divine, it also purifies the physical. Illusions can not pass upwards out of Yesod. Further more, like a more conventional mirror, it brings the soul into the personality through the unconscious, but it can also show twisted aspects of the personality back to itself. Horrors and glories can be generated out of the twists in our own unconscious. Yesod is a dangerous sphere: a trap for illusions, both our own and others’, layered over the years. We need to learn to identify our own fantasies (both good and bad) before we can move through Yesod in safety. Many mystics have been trapped here by false wonders and terrors.

Are you able to tell the difference between a twisted reflection of your own fears and desires, and a true reflection of your divine will? Are you ready to look beyond the words and tricks of false prophets and see the beauty of God’s light? These are the challenges that you will need to rise to in order to master the many nodes of Yesod.

Yesod

In meditations, Yesod is normally visualised as a grassy hilltop clearing poking out of a vast forest of trees. The forest is full of hidden, distant activity. It is night, and the moon is overhead, its phase corresponding to the current physical one. The only colour is a dark indigo wash over the blacks, whites and greys of the scene – and even then, only when the moon is at least half full. Towards the centre of the clearing, a wide circle of stones surrounds a ring of pillars. Each stone is about a foot round, half white and half black. The pillars themselves come in pairs, one black and one white. At the top, exactly level with your face, each pair holds a round mirror. There are nine pairs, distributed evenly around the circle. As you stand at the centre and look into the mirrors, you see that each contains a different aspect of your personality; positively skewed, negatively skewed and undistorted versions of your childish ego, your restrictive, parental id, and your rational ‘true self’.

Yesod is variously associated with the colour indigo, mirrors, the sexual organs, lavender, violets, willow trees, incense, cats, vampires, the virtue of independence, burial mounds, employee rights and the moment of conception.

Posted in kabbalah, magick.