The Accidental Dog

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The image above is a screen shot. It’s from a mind-map app that helps me play with ideas and structures when I am writing my book. Each bubble with its idea or comment can be moved and changed, allowing thoughts to rub up against each other, to make new connections and test old ones. Moving things around whilst keeping a view over the whole, adding, subtracting and rearranging quickly and loosely helps me turn ideas and structures into a plot – the thing I find most difficult in writing.

But this isn’t an app review. It is about the accidental dog in the second box.

The first box says ‘chorus?’ because I have been testing the idea of having one – fairly traditional, full-on, commentating, interacting and demanding. Whilst thinking about how that chorus would manifest, what it would actually be, one of the ideas was that it would be all the voices in between, the incomplete presences in a landscape. Knowing but powerless, wise but naive, beholden but unconfined. I added a couple of new bubbles with further thoughts and turned off the computer, ending the day content with what I had managed to wrangle onto the screen.

When I came back to it today, there was the dog. I have no idea how it came to be there.

It originates from a slew of icons and symbols that can be opened on the app screen. I very rarely use them. It’s like pulling open a drawer that is full of Kinder-egg toys when I haven’t got any glasses to hand. I didn’t know that there was a dog amongst the vast array. It’s easier to write the words than sort through the garish jumble to find a picture that would stand in for the word.

During my fine art MA, one of my tutors gave me a bit of advice that was probably rote; a teaching aphorism rather than a specific piece of guidance suited to my work. But I use it all the time – when writing too. When stuck, a good way to become unstuck is to try the counter-intuitive. So after laughing cheerfully about my mystery dog, I thought ‘what if my chorus, the commentators, the wise fools holding the characters to account were actually dogs?’ I already have a scene that involves an encounter with a wolf. This glimpse has remained constant, acting as a way-finder as I try to clear the tangles that presently obscure the rest of my intentions for this book.

Maybe I was influenced by my recent reading of a quite brilliant short story by Hassan Blasim, Dear Beto, in which the protagonist, the wise fool, the commentator, is a dog. (This story is in The Iraqi Christ, published by Comma Press – an excellent collection and highly recommended.)

I then also remembered Toby Barlow, the author of Sharp Teeth, (another book I really admire) suggesting that all cultures and all ages have werewolf legends because of the domestic dog. Dogs share our homes, they walk with us, lie at our feet but they are descended from the wolf. I think Barlow’s phrase was the dog brings the wolf to the hearth. In so doing, the dog gives us too a connection to our wild ancestry. I picture this connection like an arrow, a segment, a thinly angled and perhaps ragged section of the circle that twist from the present edge to a tiny centre point; back to the ancient history of our animal soul. I picture it like Munich’s Englische Garten, a beautiful park that takes a radial section out of the elegant city, letting the wilds into the centre, so that past kings could leave the palace, the apex of civil society and ride directly into the savage exuberance of the hunt.

My book is, in some ways at least, about transitions between states, about blended boundaries, about the blurred line between sea and land, the dry skin and the wet interior of the body. The plants that grow in the earth and the food that fuels our growth. I won’t go full-reveal so early in the game but my accidental dog has given me a view of my own text-to-be that is miraculously clearer. I have found the path through it. I have found the tunnel into the heart of it, the opening that connects the whole. I am part of the chorus suddenly and can see it all. It feels very exciting.

Now I have to trash my several tens of thousands of previous words, and write the whole damn thing. Walkies! 🐕

We are the weather

Yesterday, I read an article posted in Unbound’s fantastic new literary journal, Boundless –  Where’s Your Accent From? Britain’s White Others by Agnieszka Dale and A.M. Bakalar. The article was valuable, well written and informative. But lowering. I felt a currently familiar sense of despair. My screen life is filled with examples of how badly we humans are managing in a diverse and changing world.

Today’s fist-pumping glee about the return of the blue passport cover seemed an absurd addition to the failures covered in the many contemporary discussions and treatise on intolerance, the spike in white-power violence, the hate-crimes and stifling prejudices affecting the LGBTQ community. It felt absurd, like someone adding a flouncy, carnival hat pin to the top of a roadside snowman, stubborn in the cold, though grimed with car exhaust and sliding slowly, bitterly, into the freezing gutter.

All that sentimental glee because something that existed for a few decades is coming back – a colour, become a symbol. How feeble.

Patriotism seems to me an infantile emotion. The clue is in the name, the state father worshipped by the citizen child. Pride and value not inherent but conferred by a constantly demanding parent. Nationalism is equally baffling. Now that globalisation, cavalierly introduced as a logical extension of the needs of capitalism, has changed everything, even the idea of a nation seems crude and unhelpful. On the one hand, global capitalism has brought people up against each other with no mitigation or care for whatever frictions might occur. On the other, the internet has connected people, amplified voices across boundaries, creating a nationless voice of anger that is able to confront imperialism, white privilege and abuse of privilege, the hegemonic prejudices enacted both passively and deliberately by complacent ruling bodies, the rapacious damage caused in the furtherance of corporations. Empire, racism, climate change, the plight of refugees are all entities that exist trans-nationally.

I am baffled by some people’s attachment to their whiteness, their birthplace. I am baffled by their clannish need to be with people who are like them. What comfort is it? All I see is feebleness, anxiety, a sense of peril and danger in a big world that can seem to be held at bay by pretending that everyone is like them. Do people not see how weak it makes them? Perhaps we should focus, with due respect for the danger that racists can pose, on that weakness a little more? Prejudice is so revealing.

I have read many articles recently that articulate, with varying degrees of understandable anger, the inadequacy of making statements about ones own lack of racism (or other prejudice) in a society that implicitly benefits me because of my race or sexual orientation or other marker of mainstream privilege. I embrace that lesson, because it is true. And I remain persistently furious at our failure to universally grasp the simple truth of diversity. It is a torturous act of will to attempt an exclusion of this truth. The world is varied. The people on it shift and change through different geographies like the weather, a skin of moving variety that can never be contained by something as feebly conceptual as a national boundary.

Perhaps we need to learn from the weather. We might belong, at any given moment, to a nation of people under the same weather as us. Thus, we are always connected, with shared purpose and care for our home territory, to the people near to us. But the reach of our people changes; like the weather, our nation’s boundary changes. It makes sense, socially and biologically, for us to bond with our neighbours, to extend our families, to head outwards into a tribe. But by letting the weather define our tribe, it will never become bounded and will never become a device for exclusion.

This evening, I sit in the tribe of soft rain and cloudy darkness. I don’t know how far my tribe reaches, it slides into other tribes before I can define it. Probably over the Downs, or perhaps in the Channel. But all of us can, at any given moment, without knowing its limits, define our tribe. Yes, it is an impractical or fanciful idea – but humour me and call it poetic. It is a small break from the wrecking-ball glee of the sentimental Little Englanders and the bullies who carry their fear like a cudgel in their clenched, pink fists.

Let us change, like the weather.

Happy Christmas.


To buy my book from Amazon –

Twice The Speed Of Dark By Lulu Allison @LRAllison77 #AuthorSpotlight — Love Books Group

A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence. Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths. Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, […]

via Twice The Speed Of Dark By Lulu Allison @LRAllison77 #AuthorSpotlight — Love Books Group

The Fascination of Death: A Guest Post by Lulu Allison, Author of Twice the Speed of Dark

My guest post as part of the Twice the Speed of Dark blog tour, hosted today by Linda’s Book Bag – absolutely full of great stuff for book lovers, so do take a look. Thank you so much for hosting, Linda.

Linda's Book Bag

Twice teh speed of dark cover

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Twice the Speed of Dark by Lulu Allison, not least because I think it’s a fabulous title!

Published by Unbound on 24th November 2017, Twice the Speed of Dark is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Twice the Speed of Dark

Twice teh speed of dark cover

A mother and daughter circle each other, bound by love, separated by fatal violence.

Dismayed by the indifference she sees in the news to people who die in distant war and terror, Anna writes portraits of the victims, trying to understand the real impact of their deaths.

Meanwhile Anna’s daughter, killed by a violent boyfriend, tells her own story from the perplexing realms of death, reclaiming herself from the brutality.

Anna’s life is stifled by heartache; it is only through these acts of love for strangers that she allows herself an emotional connection to the world.

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#BlogTour #BookReview: Twice the Speed of Dark – Lulu Allison

Thank you for this lovely, thoughtful review.

Eats Plants, Reads Books

TTSOD_FINALToday I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Lulu Allison’s debut novel Twice the Speed of Dark, which was published last week. I primarily read for my own enjoyment and receive many review requests that I turn down as they just do not grab me – however after I read one small excerpt of Twice the Speed of Dark I was hooked, and had to read the rest. This thoughtful, lyrical novel, in which a mother and daughter separated by fatal violence circle each other, still bound by love, will stay with you long after you have closed the pages.

The story follows Caitlin, killed by a violent boyfriend, who slowly unfurls her story from beyond the grave. As Caitlin pieces together what happened to her, and the slow erosion of herself in an abusive relationship that culminated in her death, she pieces herself back…

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The Date…

…is set. Twice the Speed of Dark will be published on 24 November 2017. Digital copies and advance paperbacks will be available before then. I am starting the process of putting together a blog tour – for those who don’t know, there is a wonderful world of book bloggers who give their time and effort over to books and some of them have agreed to host me or Twice the Speed of Dark, which is a fantastic way of getting people to know about it. I will post links to their sites once confirmed.

See you soon!

Cover Reveal


I am so thrilled with the final design for the cover of my book Twice the Speed of Dark. Mark at Mecob Design has found a way to represent subtle aspects of the book really beautifully. I couldn’t be more pleased. TTSOD_FINAL

Because of my background people have often asked if I wanted to do the cover myself. I knew I never would – it is a particular professional talent that goes way beyond ‘being an artist’. But I feel that Mark has clearly shown great artistry as well. I know for sure I would never have come up with such a complex yet simple and compelling image. I will of course, be flinging it around with abandon – please don’t let me stop you if you feel like doing the same!

Twice the Speed of Dark will be published on November 24th 2017 – I will of course keep you updated.