To the manor born

Jack Shackaway here.


Not long ago I posted an account of a recent encounter with fine wine and free food. But the starving writer’s life is no incessant five-star carouse with mince tarts and Shiraz on all sides. Far from it.

Here it is some time in the morning, I haven’t even had breakfast, and Mad the Maid has just puked all over my balcony. She went out there to clean it for the first time since this building was … Read more

Outsource our minds? What a good idea!

pre-internet boredom xkcdThe times, they are a-changin’.

Old news. But these days our technology transforms our environment, both external and internal, at an ever-accelerating rate. And we aren’t always conscious of how much or how fast we ourselves are changing in response to this.

Here’s just one example. More and more, people are consulting smartphones and tablets in mid-conversation. Only half attending to whatever any given speaker is on about, they’re digitally retrieving bits of information they think might add value to … Read more

Epidemic dead pens: Sign of the times

refills simmeringThis morning my tea is ready before my Parker refills are done. They’ve been simmering in a pot on the stove for five minutes already, but they still won’t write.

I’ve used indelible black Parker medium ballpoints for years. Some of my associates describe my Parker pens as mere affectation. “I do fine with these twenty-baht stick pens,” says one friend. Of course he’s only a photographer and hardly knows what to do with a pen anyway. The point is, … Read more

Wine appreciation night: Gold buttons & financial plans

winesJack Shackaway here.

The financial sky is falling. (So what’s new, eh? See here and here.). China’s economy is stumbling, the world’s share markets are tanking, and here in Bangkok anonymous malcontents have been bombing public places. Never mind. Starving writers are shielded from stock market crashes, at least, a regular feature of this life you don’t even notice if you have a pot to piss in but that’s about all.

Still, life can be good, and wine tastings … Read more

Get rich quick: Plan B

pike jumpingJack Shackaway here.

I’m free. A freelance writer. A free spirit. You name it. Currently a bachelor.

So why don’t I feel better? Where’s the lift of adventure, the sense of new horizons?

In my experience, the advantages of living alone are generally clearer when you’re living with somebody. (And vice versa.) Meanwhile I recognise another unfortunate fact of nature: Money serves in much the same way a shiny new Johnson Weedless Silver Spoon does when you’re fixin’ to catch … Read more

Get rich quick: Plan A

Jack Shackaway here. I’m worried about Collin. Take a look at this e-mail:

Yo, Jack.

One of the UK publishers I most respect has just declined my 180,000-word science fiction novel, saying how much they like the writing and world-building, and how they understand and admire the structure, but for some indefinable reason they haven’t “fallen in love” with it. So we turn to other ways of generating an income from writing.

I’m thinking I’ll run this classified ad in

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What I should write (learning to listen to my public)


Jack Shackaway here. Of Kicking Dogs fame.

It’s true, as Collin says (here and here). Nearly everybody’s a writer these days.  And — given all the media interest in current publishing-industry convulsions — the few who aren’t writers are experts on publishing and books.

I used to tell people I was a novelist. I don’t anymore. That’s as interesting to your average citizen as saying “Every night I go to sleep.” Who isn’t writing a novel?

But if … Read more

Dark Night of My Quick Guns XVII, by Allie Ambit: A brief review

Jack Shackaway presents a review of a recent Mickey’s Muse product:

explosion hollywoodTHIS BOOK never fails to satisfy basic reader expectations, but I was disappointed that, in key ways, it never exceeds them.

Take the lead scene, for example. Mr. Ambit presents everything that Hollywood wants—a startling instance of random structural violence, with much smoke and flame and opportunity for the action hero to squint in the general direction of the shitstorm and wince in a way that suggests strong … Read more

Mickey’s Muse: Henry Ford for writers

The bots are coming, the bots are coming 

robot writer la times bbcThe times, they are a’changing, and faster than some of us might like. Us writers, for example. As Klaus F. Zimmerman has suggested:

“If anyone needed a wake-up call about how much the world, as we know it, is changing, consider this: China betting its future on robots is certainly about the starkest signal imaginable.” (“The big trade-off in the world of labour,”  The Straits Times, 1 May 2015)

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Existential & neural plasticity

helmet pink useIn the last two posts, we’ve seen how tobacco smokers and anthropogenic climate-change deniers demonstrate a similar psychology.


Jack Shackaway now looks at a third such group — those, including himself, who take motorcycle taxis in Bangkok. Jack offers this as a follow-up to both my “How I quit smoking” and my “Immortality for Joe Atheist” posts.

He claims the following sketch has been sitting on his computer since back in a time (or a … Read more