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I shared my Inspirations Song List today as I’d updated it (Songs that Inspired Stories), then joked that I should make a list of stories that started from collisions. Not literally — although I do have one or two of those — but collisions of ideas.

Example: later this month Empty Mirror will publish my essay ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which came from a collision in my head between The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con. It makes perfect sense to me but maybe this is why I have a hard time getting people to follow my thoughts. Possibly they seem random and incoherent!

But they seem reasonable to me. Here’s a random selection of things what I have written and the collisions from which they sprang:

The Mangrove Legacy: Peter Cook & Jane Austen

White RabbitBlue Sunshine & Seance on a Wet Afternoon & certain London pubs

How to Be Dull: academia & Jerome K. Jerome

Airships & Alchemy:  <— exactly that

Owl Stretching: The Descent of Inanna & Spike Milligan

‘Elf Prefix’: The Maltese Falcon & The Fairy Melusine

‘Headless in Bury’: The Big Sleep & vikings

‘Wordgeryne’: Lovecraft and medieval charms

‘Losing My Religion’: REM, Tony Hancock & social media debates

“Domus inferna Sancti Guthlaci: A Rediscovery of the Twelfth-Century Narrative of The Saint and the Money Pit”: my Pseudo-Society talk that sprang from rearranging the Harley Roll illustrations of the life of the saint so they became a sort of DIY disaster

…and of course there’s a whole random Fall song + whatever random obsession has fired in my brain this week which covers most of my crime writing that isn’t currently inspired by Robyn Hitchcock.

It’s not just me, right?

[Image from the Cosmagraphia Scoti MS. Canon. Misc. 378 via Bodleian Library]

Happy Know Year


Begin how you mean to go on,


Take up your weapon of choice,


Fill you heart with joy,


Summon all your powers,


And show the world what you’ve got.

carrington nigromante

The Secret to Life

Featured Image -- 9079…can be yours for just $19.99 down and $19.99 a month until you finish buying all my books which should take less than a year, I expect (someone do the calculations: I can’t be bothered). Everything I’ve published over decades could be read in a year. Humbling, eh?

Is that a sufficiently clickbaity title? Apparently that’s all that matters anymore. Nothing has legs, nothing lasts past the news cycle. Let us all hope that tomorrow brings an end to some of the madness. As I said to a friend on the Facebook, I hope after tomorrow I can stop worrying about the destruction of the planet quite so anxiously and get back to worrying anxiously about the destruction of higher education.


But the secret to life: it was there in my review on Friday, right at the top. It is there in my humorous volume How to Be Dull, too — though a bit hidden behind the amusing digressions. It’s even in the pages of my ongoing #NaNoWriMo novel between the murder mystery and social commentary (and you can give a $1 to help kids find the joy of writing).

WWWBD? I have that on the corkboard in my office. What does William Blake say?

  • Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
  • If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
  • The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
  • No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.

Or in other words, take care of your self with kindness, pursue the things you love, when troubled create something you enjoy, take pride in your work. Blake died penniless and forgotten, but he was a genius. There are no guarantees in life. If he had been famous, I suspect he would never have trusted it. All he trusted was his inspiration. Be inspired.

Blake Imagined

SA4QE 2015

SA4QE2015Happy birthday to Russell Hoban, wherever he may be in the luminiferous ether. So we remember him every year: and odd writer with unusually attached fans. Such loyalty is not easily won. I recommend his books to you. You’ll find a few to treasure. If you want to understand what the Slickman A4 Quote Event is, read the link. And you can imagine why I shared this quote from Turtle Diary or you can take my word for it that it’s true (and could be my biography).

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Click to embiggen

Unloading Your Head

‘I need a dump truck, mama, to unload my head…’
Bob Dylan, From a Buick 6

The difference between people who create things and people who do not is only that the former follow the impulses which infect their brains because trying to make them manifest is the true joy of being alive. Can I make this thing I see/feel/hear in my head into something real?

Even if it's something incredibly silly --

Even if it’s something incredibly silly —

Often the result is a failure — probably most of the time it is. The perfect vision is difficult to make manifest because we don’t (or don’t yet, we hope) have the skill. We don’t have the right words or the right lines or the right instruments to make it so, but we itch to make it real. We’re elated when we have it in a form that we can share with others, yet disappointed because it was so perfect in our heads and this is not perfect.

But what magic it is to share the ideas in your head with other people.

The distance between your vision and your creation creates ambition and despair. With luck, the former outweighs the latter. Keeping at it is the only way to get better. Be ambitious. Create.

‘What is now proved was once only imagined.’
William Blake

Giraudoux Secret of success

Daniella Dooling at Esther Massry Gallery



Esther Massry Gallery – October 10 – December 7

Daniella Dooling’s mixed media installation is a transgression of borders: sculpture/archive/ adolescence/adulthood/sobriety/hallucinogenic drugs/gender/sexuality. Societal inscriptions of normalcy are reconstructed and reclaimed through a process of sifting through memorabilia, family history, natural phenomena, and cultural artifacts. The artist serves on the faculty at Bard College and lives in the Hudson Valley. Visit:

The provocative title turns out to have a funny source: according to the tales Dooling’s grandfather would tell a remittance man lived on the road where the Diamond Bar Inn was built in Jackson, Montana. His name was Dick and he swore at everything “bloody” this, “bloody” that, so of course the nickname. One spring he didn’t come down from the mountain. Eventually a bunch of ranchers went up to see what had become of him. A bear had feasted upon him. So they buried him and lacking any knowledge of his name, Bloody Dick he was interred.

The pieces in this collection vary greatly, but most of them operate as amber catching moments of the past. I was fortunate to hear the artist talk where she explained a number of things from her background — why David Bowie (though I’m not sure that needed any explanation), the history of the ranch and her family’s moves from Montana to California to D.C. with side trips to South America and some excerpts of her at times harrowing experiences including her institutionalization for anorexia and acid flashbacks.

Her treatment also included a stay at her grandparent’s natural health center. Her grandmother was D. M. Dooling, the co-founder of Parabola Magazine. Family played a large role in her life (no surprise) and Dooling reveals a great deal of very frank and troubled times in her life — a survivor much against the odds in many ways.

It may sound very personal and singular, but as Dooling remarked in her talk, the effect is opening up the commonality of those traumas. The students she’d spent the week with all wanted to share their own lives and experiences. I had a vision of all my old diaries similarly captured in a vitrine: what pages would I choose to open up to public scrutiny? How do you choose? Take a wander around this fascinating collection and see what it sparks in you.

And come away with an appreciation of Abe and the Genie lift.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

2013-10-23 16.44.20Every creative gets this question sooner or later: those asking think it’s the most natural thing in the world to ask about this ‘mysterious’ process. Those questioned, however, can’t help wondering where don’t you get ideas?! The truth is inspiration comes from the oddest things (that’s why we carry notebooks) but it can also be induced by filling your head with as much stuff as possible: reading, viewing art, watching movies, immersing yourself in wild nature or noisy city streets– wherever your muses lurk.

Owl StretchingHonestly, I often forget where I got ideas originally once they’ve passed through my brain to become stories. I can remember the hooks sometimes because they’re in the titles. Owl Stretching is easy because the name comes from Monty Python and, as I’ve written before, I started it the day Kurt Vonnegut died and I lamented the loss of the sad, funny books that he wrote. But it also shows my obsessions with magpies and the Regency cant (slang) that Georgette Heyer used in her novels.

The Mangrove Legacy by Kit Marlowe - 500That same cant shows up in The Mangrove Legacy because I was obsessed with it for a long time (as well as Alice in Wonderland, an almost lifelong obsession, plus Jane Austen, Gothic novels and pirates, cheese and pockets). And that serial started because I was afraid that I wouldn’t keep writing fiction while I was so busy trying to write my way out of Texas.


Of course music is a huge influence for ideas. How many? Let’s see:

It's A Curse

extricate ebook 72ppi

And my next novel White Rabbit is (obviously) inspired by Alice in Wonderland but it’s also sprung from “Draygo’s Guilt” and there are short stories like “Guide Me Soft” and “Grotesque” also spawned by Fall songs and Mark E. Smith lyrics; but I also use other musicians like this for what’s an homage to Tony Hancock and Sid James (stories inspired by comedy, that’s whole other post):

Even if I sometimes get the title wrong (>_<)

And sometimes it’s art that inspires a title and a story:

Other times, it may be a film:

Or a poem.

Unquiet Dreams by K. A. Laity - 500

You just never know. Creating is a habit you develop, a way of seeing the world. Do it consciously. Really look at the world around you. There’s plenty of inspiration no matter where you are. Close your eyes: you have a lifetime of images, sounds and words in your head. Use them.