Cafe Insomniac has been reviewed, and given an award, by The Guardian newspaper. They called it "dreamily compulsive". Read the review by clicking here.
I was lucky enough to be at the Kate Bush concert last night; her first for thirty-five years.
When I was younger, I had a test to find out if somebody was a true Kate Bush fan. I’d ask them to name their favourite song. If they were a true Kate Bush fan, my reasoning went, they wouldn’t answer with a song. They would simply say, “The Ninth Wave”. We’d exchange knowing nods and go on, nothing more needing to be said.
I don’t think I’m as pompous as I used to be, I hope, but there’s a certain truth behind the test.
The Ninth Wave is the second half of the Hounds of Love album. It’s a suite of songs based around a woman who is cast adrift in the ocean, kept afloat by her lifejacket. During the next twenty-five minutes or so, her thoughts/dreams/hallucinations become ever more powerful as she imagines watching over those she’s left behind, being tormented by both demons and priests, and floating above planet Earth; all this while trying desperately to remain conscious.
Hounds of Love was the first album that Kate Bush self-produced in her own studio, and what it did was marry songwriting with production. This enabled her to create a fully realised sonic world.
The best way to listen to it is on headphones in a darkened room, to cut off your other senses.
Last night, the concert was a triumph from beginning to end. But seeing The Ninth Wave brought to life was a particular highlight for me. It mixed film, music and theatricality. Even her son Bertie artfully played out a scene in the drama. At another point an eerie lighting rig, with its flashing red lights and a roving spotlight, floated desperately over the audience, searching for the survivors of the shipwreck, as the sound of a helicopter reverberated around the auditorium. The radio chatter from the pilot, the music, the searching spotlight; it tugged at the heartstrings without manipulating you with cheap tricks.
The Ninth Wave is undoubtedly the deep-rooted product of a single-minded imagination. I think that’s why Kate Bush fans are so passionate about her work. They sense an artist who doesn’t chase an audience, who makes music for herself. That might seem selfish to some. But in fact it’s quite the opposite.
It’s the greatest respect any artist can show her audience.
A few years ago, I became interested in a basic animation software called Moviestorm. Moviestorm used gaming technology to produce a style of animation called machinima. It's not Pixar, but it's easy to use if you have any visual training, and a great tool for trying out ideas.
One of those ideas was Café Insomniac. I adopted the directing name of Hardy Capo (I still like that name) and turned it into a 4-part web series, which was well received in the machinima community.
It's interesting comparing the animated version to the novel I later wrote. Visual storytelling is very different from telling a tale in book form. It eats up story like a monster. The novel concentrated more on the interior life of Justin, something that books do well. The book is told entirely from Justin's point of view. In the animation I externalised Justin's confusion, spending more time with the police officers and the gangsters, giving them their own independent stories.
They are very different from each other but share the same mood. One day I'd like the story of Café Insomniac to continue.
In this modern, connected world, there’s a danger of readers and writers getting a little too close. What follows is a cautionary tale.
The First Date
Sarah was taken unawares. Her bosom started heaving, she became dangerously short of breath. He’s amazing, she thought. She asked her friends what they thought of this new writer — secretly, she was hoping they’d give him their unconditional blessing. But one of her friends, one she’d never really liked anyway, said he was a little lightweight for her taste. Sarah immediately jumped to the defence of her new beau: “Give him time. He’ll definitely grow on you.”
The writer meanwhile, Jim, was flattered by the attention from his new admirer. But as excited as he was, he had his concerns. Would this be a relationship that lasted? Or would she dump him at some point for a newer, younger, shinier model, somebody like that John Green guy?
Despite his worries, Jim found his heart all aflutter.
Are those Wedding Bells?
Time moved on and Sarah and Jim went through a couple of books together. Sarah began to think seriously about their relationship. She stopped reading other authors. “Jeffrey Deaver can’t give me what I need anymore,” she said. Jim was overwhelmed by her passion. “You’re the best reader I’ve ever had,” he said.
One thing led to another and they found themselves married.
The wedding was fantastic, a sparkling occasion. Both were very happy. Sarah loved the way Jim started dropping parts of their conversation into his books. Jim was so happy he began to write specifically for her.
They were sure to live happily ever after.
At this point it should be mentioned that one of the wedding guests did overhear a bridesmaid, admittedly a little drunk, confide in the best man: “It’ll never last. I saw her flicking through a Neil Gaiman last night.”
Jim began to sense that there was something wrong. He’d been doing his best to please Sarah. She’d said she liked his last book but was a little confused by the darker tone of the story, darker compared to his previous work. Jim felt bad not pleasing Sarah. So for his next novel, Jim wrote a lighter book, throwing in as many laughs as could find in his toolbox. Sarah said she liked it. Only “liked” it?
Jim began to entertain dark thoughts. He started to wonder whether they should have married at all. Damn it, he’d never wanted to write a comedy. Who respects writers of comedy novels?
And after all, there had been other readers pursuing him. Perhaps he should have dated that elegant professor who’d showed an interest in him. She’d have encouraged him to follow his muse, write deeper works that would have put him in line for the Pulitzer Prize.
But worse was to follow.
Caught her. Jim knew he shouldn’t have turned Sarah’s Kindle on, but he just couldn’t help himself.
She used to display the homepage on her device with pride, a page consisting entirely of his books. But this time, he wasn’t even on the first page. He could have shaken off a Dean Koontz or a Dan Brown. But she’d got into bed with David Mitchell, Philip Roth, and Donna Tartt. Did she think he wasn’t clever enough for her? The nerve!
He decided to confront her.
Sarah was distraught. She hadn’t meant to be unfaithful, she said. She’d been on Amazon one morning, looking for a plunger to clear the blocked sink, when she’d seen the cover for the The Goldfinch. It was just so pretty, so alluring. “It won’t happen again,” she said.
The Seven Book Itch
She was on page two hundred and forty-seven of his seventh novel. Sarah just wasn’t feeling the same sense of anticipation. Turning the page became a chore, where once it had been a moment of heart-stopping delight. She could see Jim’s faults all too clearly now — the overwrought metaphors, the abundant similes, plots that defied all logic.
She felt guilty, but things had changed.
The divorce was heart wrenching for both parties. Recriminations shot back and forth until they calmed down and came to terms with the fact that it was just not meant to be.
Six months later, both Jim and Sarah seem much happier now. Sarah has turned to Stephen King for comfort, a dark choice considering the trauma she’s endured. But apparently he provides her with the thrills she’s been missing for a while.
Jim is happy, too. He’s penning the novels he always wanted to write. And he’s now cavorting with a whole reading group from Cambridge. He’s never been happier.
The Moral of this Story
For readers and writers going through similar relationship problems, I can only say good luck. If you find things getting tough, just read or write your way through it. And trust that you will eventually find your perfect partner(s).
P.S. None of this actually happened. I know you didn’t think it did, but I had to insert this disclaimer just in case. All the characters are entirely fictional.
Mark Capell is the author of Café Insomniac; Edyl; Vows to Kill; and Run, Run, Run. He can be found at www.mark-capell.com.
I walked into the living room and switched on the TV. I picked up a newspaper at the same time. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do — watch TV or read the newspaper. The newspaper won, but I didn’t switch off the TV.
I can’t remember what changed the balance of power, how the TV won my attention, whether it was gradual or sudden.. But I remember my jaw dropping as each line the narrator spoke sounded more and more incredible.
The newspaper was discarded. But not before I checked the date. Was it April Fools’ Day?
The TV show was about something called “remote viewing”. Apparently both sides of the Cold War sank millions into developing a technique known more popularly as “psychic spying”. Was this real? Provable? Or just a result of Cold War paranoia?
When I began to think of writing about a futuristic world of spies, this strange TV show came immediately to mind. I wanted to create a world somewhere between John Le Carré and Ray Bradbury. Taking remote viewing a step further would provide the ideal springboard to the world of Edyl.
The documentary "The Real X-files — America's Psychic Spies" is on youtube. Make of it what you will.
“Edyl - The Reading Department” is FREE from online bookstores and as an audiobook on iTunes.
Before 1945, life was lived in black and white. I know that because I’ve seen numerous newsreels. And I know it because of my childhood experiences.
I remember, as a child, leafing through history books.
There was one particular photograph of a street I knew well. I walked down it often. The picture was taken during World War Two. It was of a building on fire, a bomb had hit it during an air raid.
I remember walking down that street after reading the book. I was mesmerised by this building. It was thirty years after World War Two but the building hadn’t been repaired, even though it was quite central.
In other words, it was much the same as it had been. And yet, I couldn’t quite connect the real thing with the photograph. I stood there for quite a while, staring at the building, imagining I was there on the night of the air raid. I heard the bombs fall in my head. They made me flinch.
Today, I came across a film of London in 1927. It also made me flinch. It made me flinch because it was in colour. It should have been in black and white.
The film isn’t a Hollywood epic, there’s no narrative. It’s simply a tour of London. But it affected me more than any film I’ve seen for a long time. The people in the film are doing nothing, just going about their day. Some notice the camera, some don’t.
The night before, I’d seen the new Planet of the Apes movie. In that film, the goodies are very good, the baddies are very bad, the action moves forward in a way that is predictable. It had great effects, vertiginous fight scenes, lots of chases. And I was unmoved.
The film of the simple journey through London moved me. It was 1927. The film was in colour and I felt that I could almost reach out and touch these people who are no longer with us. The child in me was mesmerised. The past was no longer in black and white.
A novel inspired by government spying on emails is released this week. Although set in the future, the underlying problems with power that it portrays feel very current. The novel is "EDYL - Island of Immortality" by Mark Capell.
It's 2117 and the government has stopped reading your emails. It now reads your mind...
Every year, WOCO (the world government) nominates people to compete in the Edyl Olympiad. The prize? Immortality, and the right to live in the only place left in the world where the sun still shines -- Edyl Island. But the competitors are being watched by a secret government division called The Reading Department to see if they're worthy of that prize.
R77K is a thought reader on his first Edyl assignment. He has three targets: a rock singer, an athlete, and a mechanic. But one of them also moonlights as a contract killer. Why would a contract killer be nominated for immortality? All is not well in paradise.
The deeper R77K delves into the minds of his targets, the closer he gets to them... and to the hidden agenda behind the nominations. Edyl is a festering world of lies, corruption and strife, but defying WOCO means fighting off attacks from other thought readers, means giving up any last chance of his own immortality. Will he pay that price to save the nominees? And join the cause to put the world to rights?
EDYL - Island of Immortality is a dystopian view of the future, an intense mix of intrigue and drama in an epic tale.
It's available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.