Ten Books That Stayed With Me

I was wondering how I was going to break the drought this blog has been under. Funnily enough the reason I haven’t been writing is that I was writing. I finished my novel, I’m just waiting for mentor edits currently. I’d wanted to update the blog last week, but found I didn’t have much to say beyond ‘woo!’

Not that there’s anything wrong with saying woo, it just doesn’t make for a whole blog.

Then I came across this post from Chuck Wendig about ten books that got under his skin and stuck with him. Like Chuck I’m not going to go for my ten favourite books, I don’t know if I could name ten favourites anyway, not without having to post a different list at a later date when they all change.

But ten books that stuck with me whether I wanted them to or not? That I can do:*


1. The Illustrated Edgar Allan Poe

I read this book when I was nine years old. I’d never heard of Edgar Allen Poe and the closest I’d come to reading a horror story was Where the Wild Things Are. I can’t even really be sure that this particular edition was the one I read, but it’s a likely candidate. I read the Masque of the Red Death first, marvelling at the illustrations and feeling the uncomfortable fear/excitement that good horror can bring out in a reader. After that I was hooked, The Pit and the Pendulum was next, then The Raven, which I didn’t really understand until I was older. I discovered I could be scared by a story, but more importantly, that was a good thing.

I can trace my fascination with scary stories back to this book, and I still remember the illustrations.

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

American Gods is a weird book. I thought it was perfect the first time I read it, back in 2002, but despite seeing its flaws now that I’ve read it at least eight times, it sticks in my brain and refuses to leave, like a very eloquent demon. I still think about the implications of its universe and storylines, and Mister Saturday is one of my all time favourite characters.

There are some dark, messed up moments in American Gods but the book is that much stronger for them.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’m sorry I didn’t read Pride and Prejudice when I was younger. I didn’t get to it until my wife found out that I’d never read it and leant me her copy. It was an abject lesson that classic literature didn’t have to be boring, that romance didn’t have to be stupid (although to be fair I could have learned that lesson from any one of a number of well written romances) and that the lessons of satire can live on for hundreds of years.

4. Ready Player One: A Novel

I’ve been thinking about why this stuck with me so much and I can’t pin down a single reason. It’s just an all around fun, fast paced, ridiculous yet somehow plausible near future sci-fi that’s so chock full of nerdy nerdy goodness that if you didn’t grow up in the eighties you’ll need to read it with Wikipedia at hand to get the references (unless of course you’re like the main character Wade and already know everything there is to know about the 1980’s).

5. Night Watch: A Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett

Night Watch is my favourite Discworld novel. Practhett was always good, but this book hammered home the fact that he was great. Night Watch is a story that takes a fantasy setting and then uses it to tell a tale of cops, killers, politics and humanity’s relationship to the past without ever losing the sense of fun that drives the book’s narrative along. Sam Vimes is one of the all time great characters in fiction, and I was genuinely sad when this book was over.

6. IT

Pennywise. ‘Nuff said.

7. Prayers for Rain by Dennis Lehane

While not all of the books on this list would make my top ten favourites,  Prayers for Rain would. It’s the third in the Kenzie Gennaro series of detective novels set in Boston, but I didn’t know that when I read it. I was quite literally dying when I first started reading it, and thanks to life saving surgery, I got to finish Prayers for Rain. As a detective novel it’s pretty good, but what makes it shine are the ways that the characters are rendered from the ‘doing the best I can’ gumshoe Patrick Kenzie to the psychopathic Bubba Rogowski. One of those books I was sad to finish, even though I had to find out what happened.

8.  The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Unlike the other books on this list, I’ve only read The Curious Incident of  the Dog in the Night-Time once, yet it’s stuck with me so hard I can still tell you about the protagonist’s spiral search method and that he doesn’t like the colour yellow. I haven’t gone back to it because it’s a tough book to read, and once the implications of the story sink in, it’s downright painful. Yet it’s also a brilliant book, one that broke the run of terrible literary novels I’d been reading at the time. Like Pride and Prejudice The Curious Incident of  the Dog in the Night-Time opened my eyes to genres and writing styles I’d never considered before.

9. Chickenhawk by Robert Mason

There are a lot of books out there on the horrors of war, and I’ve read plenty of them. I’ve been duly horrified, and then I’ve forgotten about those books. Yet Chickenhawk stuck with me when all the others had faded. Robert Mason is an excellent writer, and brings the stupidity and despair of war to the forefront, but that’s not what makes Chickenhawk stick. I think it’s the fact that Mason includes a lot of human touches that other authors either leave out, or hammer too hard. When I first read this I was already old enough to know war wasn’t the fantasy of glory I’d thought it was when I was a little kid, yet Chickenhawk was still a shock, and the mental images it left me with still make me stop to this day.

10. Odd Thomas

Odd Thomas is not a perfect book, but it might be the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a writer hitting the perfect voice for a character. On top of this Koontz paces the book incredibly well, and keeps a last act twist as an almost complete surprise. It didn’t last, sadly, and subsequent books weren’t nearly as good, but Odd Thomas lingers in my mind as one of the best urban fantasy books I’ve ever read.

Honorable mentions: Everything by Terry Pratchett, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, several short stories by Mary Robinette Kowal, A Dirty Job and Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore, The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien and so, so many more.


So, how about you? What has stuck with you and why?


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The most important lesson – there’s never a good time

So as most of you will know in February I quit my day job in order to write. I freelance, I help people with ebooks, I make comics and I write fiction. All of these things add up to my day job. It’s almost as awesome I thought it would be, but for one massive misconception I had about having lots of time to write.

I honestly thought that when I had all the time and mental space to write there would be good, nay, perfect, times to write.

These things do not exist. You are more likely to find a unicorn raiding your fridge than find the perfect time to write. There are two reasons:

1. No matter how much time you have, the human capacity for filling up that time with stupid crap that seems important is LIMITLESS.

2. Writing is both fun and awesome. It’s also hard, which means your brain will do whatever it takes to stop you from doing it. It will want to be lazy instead.

I wish I’d known this, I think I’d have gotten a lot more done.

Instead the conclusion I have come to is that the most important skill any writer can learn is to force themselves to write. Even if they don’t want to, even if there are other things they need to be doing. Even if their kids/spouse/eldritch god from beyond spacetime is demanding they do something else.

It’s one I have to relearn every day. I’ve written about a third of what I’m capable of since February. A third. That’s horrifying. And I think a part of that is trying to wait until I had taken care of everything else I had to do before I wrote.

I think that if I’m going to make this writing thing work I need to do it the other way around. Barring life or death stuff I’m going to need to write first and take care of everything else once that’s done. This may mean I spend more time smelling bad and not wearing trousers but in the end that’s a price I’m willing to pay.




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Andrew Update

Hi everyone, it’s been awhile. I don’t have too much in the way of new writing advice to give except to say “keep going” and “try not to punch yourself in the face”.

Both are good advice though, don’t get me wrong.

I’m busy writing, funnily enough, trying to get this novel finished so I can sell it. If I can’t otherwise I’m going to have to go get a real job and no one wants that.

My webcomic Cthulhu Slippers is going extremely well, so well in fact that I’m a little bit shocked as to the response online. Lovecraft and comedy go well together, who knew?

Other than that I’ve been trying to keep my neighbours from killing each other over a tree and attempting to stay in shape even though I spend most of my time in front of a keyboard.

I hope you’re all well.

– Andrew




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No more comments for awhile

Hi everyone, I’ve had to disable the comments as some really persistent spammers where causing some problems. I hope I can reactivate them again later but for the time being all comments everywhere on the site are gone.

If someone can invent me a SMITE button that allows me to give spammers increasingly painful electric shocks, that would be great.

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I haven’t blogged in awhile so I thought I’d mark my return by giving away a book.


Badass writer, ex-pro wrestler and full time internet curmudgeon Matt Wallace has written a serialised novel called Slingers about a future fighting tournament.

It’s held in a high-tech arena.

In space.

Above a wormhole.

A wormhole that deposits the slung somewhere thousands of feet above the ground on Earth, whereupon they plummet to their doom for the entertainment of humanity.

It’s exactly as awesome as that implies. So to help spread the awesome around I’m going to give away a digital copy of the first two instalments to a commenter on this post. I’ll pick a comment at random, so to enter all you have to do is answer this question:

If you had a pro wrestling name, or in fact a fighting name of any kind, what would it be?


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