Sometimes, I think, the hardest thing you can do as a writer, even after many years, is to trust yourself. It feels a little too much like closing your eyes at the wheel of a speeding car, of putting your trust in the force. It's as if you have to keep an eye on yourself all the time, to worry and fret, because if you don't, the words won't be as good.

I think now the problem with that attitude - which is largely unconscious, I think, and is shared by many writers of varying pedigrees - is that it assumes the writing process is entirely conscious. Large parts of it are, of course: you have to do a lot of thinking in this job. There are a lot of moments of sudden stillness, eyes fixed on the middle distance, while you search for some connection, some way of reconciling parts of a story that don't quite somehow fit. But the fact that revelation - sudden insights, previously missed connections - occur spontaneously, and when you least expect it, indicates that a lot of writing is, in fact, unconscious. It comes out of the fingers, via the subconscious. Your fingers know how to do the dance without being told.

This occurs to me because a while back I calculated how many words I've written since I sold my first ever short story waaaay back in 1990, and it's well over a million - and the very vast bulk of that took place following the publication of my first novel. My career has in itself been an education in how to become a writer. Learning on the job, essentially.

In other news, I'm in serious danger of becoming a cycling bore. I've always enjoyed cycling, and have always cycled, only slightly because I never learned to drive. Sometime recently some internal barrier was broken and now I'm cycling more and more. When I'm back in Taiwan, I will be considering a silly amount of money on a half-decent road bike (as opposed to my current cheap-ish Ridgeback hybrid). 

The Thousand Emperors is out in paperback today

My seventh novel, The Thousand Emperors (or 1kE as I am sometimes known to describe it) is out today in paperback in the UK, and is also available on Kindle and as an audiobook in both the UK and North America (I'm not 100% sure about the audiobook in the US, but it's definitely available through Audible.co.uk).

It's technically a sequel to my previous novel, Final Days, but it's been written as a standalone - it's set so far in the future after Final Days it constitutes a brand new setting and story, so, no, you don't at all have to have read the previous volume, though at the same time there are elements of this new novel that should take on an extra depth if you have. I've got to say I'm particularly proud of this one. It's the first time where I essentially actually felt like I knew what I was doing when I was writing a book, at least in retrospect (how it feels when I'm actually in the process of writing is a quite different matter. I never feel like I know what I'm doing when I'm deep in a first or second draft).

So, go buy, if you're so inclined, and hope you get a kick out of it. So far, to my amazement, it's not had a single bad review on Amazon, either here or in the US. Here's to my first one-star review whenever it appears!