Tuesday, 30 March 2010


I don’t often flag up stuff on this blog - books or films or records that I’m really impressed with - in the hope that when I do, it means that I’m impressed enough to try and mobilise people to partake as well.

As some of you may know, I review films for VideoVista and I enjoy it - I get to watch free films and, quite often, poke big holes in them with my pen. That’s always nice. Sometimes I get films that are, purely and simply, a waste of whatever goes into making a DVD and represent time from my life that I’ll never get back (Uwe Boll! I’m talking to you!). Occasionally, there are some pretty good films that have fallen through the cracks and it’s nice to have the opportunity to bring more attention to them.

And then we have Salvage. A very low budget British film (filmed on the old Brookside Close set, no less), I knew only that “Raymondo” from “Ashes To Ashes” was in it and assumed it was a comedy-thriller about the looting of those washed-ashore containers a few years back in Dorset.

How wrong I was.

In this case, I found the review very hard to write because, quite simply, it’s best to go into the film without knowing anything about it. But if you’re a fan of British horror film, gritty, grubby and dark, then this is for you. I finish my review (which you can read in full on this link) with this:

“Bleak, intense, genuinely frightening and unsettling, this is a superbly made piece of British horror cinema - it might not be the most original idea ever, but it’s told with guts and style and not a little grit that make it really stand out head and shoulders from the pack.”

Go and watch this film, support the UK horror film industry and enjoy a frightening, intense 75 minutes.

Friday, 26 March 2010

INXS Friday - week 4

I was torn, posting this weeks entry. I love this video, which captures the band and the 80s at their height (Joel Schumaker was never this good again), but I love the version they did at Summer XS in 1991. Which to post, which to post?

To quote Harry Hill, only one way to find out...Fight!

The Video

Summer XS, Wembley 1991

And we're off!

I went out with my friend Jon last night and, over drinks, I told him the story of "Project Gash", pretty much all the way through - it's the first time I've ever thought about it properly in a linear fashion (because it's in the present day and 1983, I've tended to think of those time periods separately). Anyway, it got me quite jazzed up and I knew that if I procrastinated, I'd poke holes and everything would fall apart so I started it today.

1114 / 35000 words. 3% done!

This is just the prologue, a dog walker finding a dead body in the gulleys, in Gaffney. It'll take a while for the reader to know why the body was there and why it died and I'm not 100% sure but hey, that's part of the adventure. The other part is that I so far have two completely different endings and I really don't know which'll be best until I get there!

But I've started! And that's brilliant! Woo hoo!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

What happened in 1983?

Work continues apace on “Project Gash” and I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours the day before last researching pop culture in 1982 and 1983. I should explain - the teenager parts of the book, where they find the gash, experience bullying and things set themselves up to be played out in adulthood, will take place in 1983. I have a diary from that time period (like my characters, I was 14 that year), but it’s very focussed on me and home and school (and the birth of my kid sister, Sarah), so it’s not as revealing of the times as I’d hoped. Instead, I’ve used the Internet, cross-referencing different sites to find out the music and films and TV - the reason I went back to ’82 is because, obviously, you don’t just concentrate on the new.

In the past, a big part of my struggle with writers block has been this perceived need to note things to the nth degree and, whilst that’s not the worst thing in the world, it also means that you pre-think everything. Great set pieces, run around in your head for months, never quite work on paper and plot holes - which you’ll work through as you get to them - suddenly seem insurmountable. Worse, in my case, you start to question the validity of the whole thing - “you’re going to write a story about this? Are you mad?”. So to that end, I intend to get enough notes together to figure out where I’m going and then crack on, to see where it leads me. If I find some blind alleys, so be it - but I also know that there will be sections where I quite literally fly free, where the characters start to tell the story for me and then I’ll know I’m on the right track.

Plus, this is a novella - I’m aiming for about 30-35k in first draft, to come down to approx. 25k or so in ensuing drafts. I reckon this will probably take me (based in previous experience) about 70 days. I’m unsure about whether to blog on the process of the writing - my friend
Gary McMahon is doing that and he seems to be finding it a bind - but I’ll keep you updated one way or another.

In other news, I won’t be at WHC this weekend and, believe you me, I’m kicking myself about it!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Your writing process is weird...

You know, it's weird, this writing process.

I fully intended to spend this weekend revising stuff on ZoQuNo and getting onto paper (or screen) the thoughts that have been rolling around in my mind for the last week or so (I spend a lot of time working through ideas, as you've probably guessed by now).

This morning, however, I had one of those flashes that all of us writers talk about but experience rather infrequently. A couple of years ago (I have notes dated mid-2008, but the thinking would have gone back further), I came up with a concept that I thought was very good, which I called "Project Gash". I put it on the back-burner because, although I had a rush of ideas with the initial bombshell, I couldn't work out what it was about.

A couple of months back, I read an interview with Mark Morris and he mentioned damaged people and I knew that this description (a wonderful one, for a writer) would perfectly fit most of the characters in "Project Gash". That was dropped into the pot and the whole thing went back on the simmer.

So this morning, out of nowhere, a huge chunk of the story plotted itself out for me. I ran it by Alison & Matthew as we drove over to Northampton, then wrote up a quick batch of notes before tea (560 words worth!).

I won't go into any more detail, in case this thing falls over before it starts, but I'm really pleased that it's happened at all - whether I go with "Gash" or ZoQuNo, things are beginning to happen now and that can only be a good thing!

Friday, 19 March 2010

For TJ, for 21/3/10

INXS Friday - week 3

Perhaps not the best song they ever did, but it's certainly something that's very representative of their style at the time and also their work in pushing what a music video was all about.

I wasn't really into INXS in the 80s, but I do remember this song. Much later, watching the video, Alison & I caught the little dance - nodding, then shaking the head (see the band, in the background, at set points) - and have done it ever since. Wonderfully, Matthew has also picked up on it and now does the dance too.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I can offer you...

I got a call today, on my Pay-As-You-Go mobile, from someone in the middle of a very busy sounding call centre. He was difficult to understand and hear and didn’t seem to like it that I had to ask him to repeat himself.

He said he was working for Orange Mobile, who wanted to see if they could sort out a better deal for me, mobile-wise. I asked him how he got my number, he said they’d bought a list. He then asked who my mobile was with, so I said that I wasn’t interested in changing and the disgusted tone in his voice was actually quite amusing.

What I don’t get is that if I wanted to change phones, or look for a better deal, wouldn’t I do it when I wanted, rather than go skipping off, hand in hand, with the first person who rang with a suggestion?

Friday, 12 March 2010

It's INXS Friday

I hadn't intended this to become any kind of regular feature, but it seems like a pretty good idea to me.

I've chosen this for three reasons:
1: I think it's a cracking song and that, in itself, is more than enough
2: The second novel I wrote was called "The Loved One" - it was a contemporary drama and I loved it
3: I was at this concert, at Wembley, in July 1991.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Hunger and Fear

I am planning a novel. There, I’ve said it, now I’ve made it concrete and whoever might be reading this is a witness. I need to do this, because as much I enjoy the act of writing, as much as I love creating, as much as I love the whole process that goes into producing a new piece of work - even down to the artwork - I need to find the hunger again.

The hunger?

Back in the day, I wrote at a terrific clip and when I first discovered the small press in 1998/99, I could write three short stories in a week. Now, that seems like some long-ago magic that I can only just remember, but thankfully I keep afterwords to everything and so I have the proof that it did happen (only the once in that case, to be fair, but I was regularly producing two or three stories a month). I was also very lucky, with the small press still heavily in printed bloom at the time, so I not only got a lot of material published, I got physical books and zines to put on my ‘writing shelf’.

In 2000, I began studying for my professional exams, which meant night school two or three nights a week (depending on the module) and I also decided to start writing a novel then too. Since 2000, I have only written a handful of short stories, the bulk of them due to editors asking me and I assumed that my short story engine had conked out and stopped beating myself up about my lack of progress in 2004 or so. The thing was, procrastination had begun to take hold and really dig in, not helped by the lack of time I had - with the studying and then, later, with having a son. Now don’t get me wrong, having my boy and spending time with him is wonderful and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but my head never really got around the “do two things at once” puzzle.

Matthew is coming up for five now, safely ensconced at school and we have our nightly rituals that, I hope, both of us enjoy. He’s in bed, usually, for 7.30 and I know that I should put in an hour or so after that but it’s a case of trying to tempt myself into it.

So procrastination and being out of the habit is a big chunk of what I need to combat, to re-achieve the hunger, but there’s also fear to contend with. Yes, fear. Not of failure, as such, because you should never be scared of attempting something new on the off-chance that you might not crack it first time. It’s more the fear of actually living up to what you’re capable of. Is this story any good? Are you still cutting it as a writer? Does this work? Worse, is the idea original? I read a lot of genre material, I also read a lot of non-genre material and there are several times where I’ve had what I think is a cracking idea, only to discover that I’d been inadvertently plagiarising something else (example - I almost never started my novel “Conjure”, because the witch in it was originally buried in an oubliette and for a long time, I couldn’t convince myself I hadn’t copied “The Ring”).

At the moment, I have two ideas on the boil - a (might-be) Zombie Quest novel and a (sort of) haunted house novel. I’m really keen on the Quest one, but I’ve just critiqued Gary McMahon’s exceptionally good “The End”, which touched on a lot of set pieces I’d already noted. We wouldn’t produce the same work, I realise that, but in the back of my mind, I’d be conscious of stepping on his toes.

So the haunted house novel then? I think so, except that I have to convince myself that the cult I want to include in it isn’t a cult at all, that this isn’t about a nasty man in a ruined palace (which I did with my other novel, “In The Rain With The Dead”), but it’s something else altogether. And the key selling points? Well, it’s the agents of the house (which I think are very cool and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them before) and what’s in the cellar.

So I’m working on the timings, of when to write. I’m working on the fear, that my ideas for “Shine Like It Does” are pretty originals. And now all I have to do is feed that hunger.

I’ll keep you posted.
This was originally posted at

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

My displacement activity knows no bounds...

I'm still wrestling with which novel to work on next, the quest one (what was ZoQuNo) or the haunted house one. This morning, on the way into work, I passed a telephone junction box onto which someone had spray-painted ‘shine’ (with a little heart over the i).

My haunted house novel’s working title is “Shine Like It Does”. Hmmm, I like that kind of happenstance…

Monday, 8 March 2010

I'm at the BFS

I now have a thread up at the British Fantasy Society Forums, as part of the Ask The Authors! boards, where you can apparently ask me anything, though I imagine it should be aimed towards the horror genre and/or writing.

Why not come along and say hello?

This is the direct link:

Friday, 5 March 2010

Sometimes, the old ones are really the best...

I had the day off today, so after dropping Matthew off at school (he’s now decided he likes Dr Who, so we’re going to look for Daleks on YouTube over the weekend) and taking Alison for breakfast and then to work, I hit Tesco. As I was wandering down the crisp aisle, INXS and “New Sensation” came onto my MP3 player - I’m sure I wasn’t singing out loud, but it’s a great song and I apologise to any of my fellow shoppers if the occasional stray “out-loud” words frightened them.

I picked up Q when I was there and read it this evening and there was a big article on the death of Michael Hutchence - an intriguing coincidence, I thought, so tonight I had a look on YouTube and found this song. Not “New Sensation” (the video doesn’t appear to be there), but one of my favourites none the less - it’s a good song but, more importantly, it’s a great video. The band all look so young and full of energy, they were still working to conquer the world (“Kick” was a few years away) and I love the fact that we see them in London so early on.
So here we are, INXS and “Burn For You”…

Monday, 1 March 2010

A nice review for another seaside tale

Matt Fryer, at The Hellforge, has reviewed Dead Lines issue 3 and has this to say about “A Cottage By The Sea”: [It] provides some goose-pimples in a creepy tale of a couple’s seaside break that oozes with menace from the outset.

Thanks, Matt - and don’t forget, you can
check out the story (for free) here