Sunday, 18 December 2011

Tiberius read

Test reader #1 has finished reading the current draft of Tiberius Found and provided feedback. There were a few typos - notably towards the end, so that tells me I might have been rushing to get it finished and hadn't paid enough attention - and a few minor points concerning technical information beginning to sound like a lecture.

All the other comments were positive and they said that the ending was sufficiently appropriate and satisfactory. Bearing in mind that it wasn't the sort of novel they'd normally read I was happy with what they came back with. Reader #2 is, as I write, in the early stages but has assured me she will get through it all now that she's on Christmas holiday.

Julie Cuthbert has already started on the provisional artwork for the cover and has told me that when Santa brings her a new laptop next week, the artwork will be its first task. Well done, Santa.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Solaris acquires 'Babylon Steel' sequel

It's been announced that London-based sci-fi writer Gaie Sebold has had Hunter's Moon, her sequel to Babylon Steel, acquired by Solaris. Babylon Steel is due to be published in January 2012, with Hunter's Moon provisionally due for release in early 2013. Her agent, John Jerrold, sold Solaris the UK and US rights.

Gaie is a member of London's T Party Writers, along with published genre authors David Gullen and Sara-Jayne Townsend. The T Party Writers is an invite-only writer's group but sounds like it's one to be a part of.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

FilmNav is now live

A new website designed especially for British film-makers - FilmNav - went live on 5th December. FilmNav is the brainchild of producer Scott Barber, of SeaView Pictures, and is geared towards all aspects of film and film-making.



I had the honour of being invited to have at look at the site in a pre-live state and I must say that I was really impressed by the amount of work and effort put into it. The articles and information are worth their weight in gold and the links to other film-makers makes the art of collaboration a thing of beauty.

If you're involved in any aspect of film-making, or would like to be, then I recommend that you hop on over to FilmNav and take a look at what's going on. Be warned - you will need more time than you think if you're going to have a look at even half the content.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Oliver Drummond ... the re-write

Stuart Palmer, in this month's Writing Magazine, says that "writing is quarrying, rewriting is sculpting" (and sadly, it's the last of his monthly insights for the 'Fantastic Realms' column). And I'm hoping that I'm doing a spot of sculpting with my re-write of Oliver Drummond and the Four Horsemen. I've started editing and the impact the changes have had on the story are already becomming apparent: character motivation, holding back of info, building doubt and suspicion.

Hopefully.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Killing II

The new series of the fantastic The Killing has just aired parts three and four over here in the UK. And what a long time coming it's been.

Forbrydelsen II, as it's called in it's native Danish, once again follows Sarah Lund (played by the award winning Sofie Grabol). But this time, following the disgraces heaped upon her at the end of the original series, she starts the new ten-part story working at a remote border control point. After the brutal murder of a woman with ties to both the military and political circles, Sarah is 'invited' to help out. Naturally she takes a different viewpoint from her new colleague and sees clues / has instinctive reasoning which others do not.

The trail of deaths continue which impact on the higher levels of Government and the military, and (so far) suggest a link to events which happened in Afghanistan a few years before, by a small military unit which is quickly losing its remaining members. Similar to the original series there are red-herrings galore and the line between good-guys and bad-guys are blurred. One of the good things that the writer(s) and director(s) does/do is conceal the true motivation of some of the characters, so the viewer doesn't know if they're genuine or just very, very dodgy. Are the murders terrorist-related? Are they revenge for what happened in Afghanistan? Or is there a more sinister reason?

The Killing 2 is half as long as the original - ten episodes - shown over five weeks. Two back-to-back episodes are being aired on Saturday nights (in the UK) on BBC4 9 - 11pm, with a repeat on Wednesdays 10.30pm-12.30am. The third series, I understand, is currently being filmed. What's the chances of another one after that?

Grabol continues with her character's po-faced hardness but has deeper scars now following the events of the original series - the death of Jan Meyer, her relationship break-up and the disgrace the Copenhagen police hierarchy landed her with.

However, some things have changed. Gone is Lund's famous cream and black sweater from series one to be replaced by a red number. With Christmas just under a month away I expect sales have already gone through the roof.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tiberius feedback

Early feedback has been coming in for the the first (draft) of Tiberius Found. Not that it's really the first draft, just the first full, complete version of the story. The early chapters - maybe about half of the story - have been worked on a fair bit and tweaked for this version.

So far most of the comments have been about word repetition (or using words with a similar origin) and multiple uses of a particular descriptive action. Which is fair enough as the story - from start to finish - took about eighteen months or so to write. Descriptive actions that I used early on would have been forgotten about with the later work, so I can forgive myself their overuse and change them accordingly.

Local author and artist Julie Cuthbert has agreed to do the cover art and the discussions we originally had about it seem to fit the style of the story and the target market. I'm looking forward to seeing the first prototypes.

As for Oliver Drummond and the Four Horsemen - the re-worked blocking structure is going very well. Some major changes to revelations and secondary character motivation/action meant a pretty hefty alteration to the storyline with the knock-on effect of everything from the start of the second act onwards having to be amended/tweaked/dropped like hot coals. But the new version, I think, will work much better for the market I'm aiming it at.

Writing will begin soon.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Writing Block

Not writers' block. The blocking out of the revision of Oliver Drummond and the Four Horsemen is going well. So well in fact that I'm tempted - like a great many other writers - to start running before I've re-learned how to walk.

The amendments to sub-plot and the shuffling around of sequences as well as the holding back of information / character intent is all starting to fall into place. But I know that starting to write before the whole picture is in place leads to ruin (at worst) and major re-writes (at best) but I can see how tempting it is. I'm a writer damn it; I want to write.

Self control, Andy; self control. I'll have the blocking finished in a week or so and then the writing can commence. Oh, yes. And it will.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Q R Markham apologies ...

... but did he use someone else's apology?

Q R Markham, the pen name for Brooklyn poet Quentin Rowan, has apologised (at last) for his uber plagiarised novel Assassin of Secrets. The article in today's Guardian can be read here. Basically he says that the pressures in confidence of his own 'voice' - "to conceal my own voice with the armour of someone else's words" - led him to copy wholesale passages of other authors works including 007 story writer John Gardner.

I'm not sure what level of understanding or compassion there will be for him within the publishing / writing world. Sure, I can comprehend the fact that there must be huge amounts of expectations with the first novel (I think it was his first novel) of a bestselling poet, but hey there must have been a point where he thought 'I'm not going to get away with this' and just come clean - hopefully way before the printed books were due to be placed on shelves.

His UK Agents Little, Brown are, apparently, highly embarrassed over this - and with good reason. Everyone concerned - both in the UK and in the US - should have picked up on the plagiarised elements way before it got to the print stage. School boy errors made by people paid high sums to do better.

Tough month

November's proving to be a tough month.

I started a new job at the tail-end of October, which is pretty much full-on and doesn't leave me a great deal of time (or energy) for writing. What has been good is that (as I said in my last post) is that I've completed the first full draft of Tiberius Found - my near-futuristic YA adventure. I've got two people reading it and so far feedback has been positive but at least one edit / re-draft will be done regardless (probably more).

I'm also starting to block out the amendments to my period YA adventure Oliver Drummond and the Four Horsemen, bearing in mind the Agent's feedback comments I received on it a while back. The amendments and alterations are proving to be a little awkward as they have a fair amount of knock-on effect with a lot of other elements - introducing a new sub-plot level, holding back significant details until a later point as well as a general tidy up.

But I know that the story will be better for it. Why didn't I write it like that to begin with? Ah, if only ...

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yes, success!!

It's been a long time coming but the first full draft of Tiberius Found has been completed. Coming in at just over 75,000 words it's pretty much bang on for my estimated word count.

It's more like third or fourth draft than first, as the vast majority of it has been gone over multiple times but it's the first full length version complete with ending.

Happy day. I have one pre-reader so far, who's happy (in fact very willing) to read and look for a) typos b) errors and c) just plain crapness. Hopefully there will be a) not many b) one or two at most and c) none.

There will be a hiatus now as I give the story a chance to settle before going back to it with a re-writer's eye. Not that I plan to be idle as I've been itching to get back to the period YA adventure that I need to re-work Oliver Drummond and the Four Horsemen. I had an Agents notes back on a full-read of the last version, so there are areas which I'm keen to amend and strengthen.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Good Weekend's Writing

I started a new job last Monday and as everyone who starts a new job knows, it can be fairly full-on for the first week. The job is teaching in a controlled, secure environment and with some very strict protocols and procedures.

As such the working day is pretty tiring and by the time I get home writing is one of the things which doesn't rank high on a to-do list. I'm hoping that once I get settled in, the writing will once again feature in my evening schedule.

However, I made a concerted effort to get some words down this weekend and, as I'm within sight of the 1st draft completion of Tiberius Found, I'm happy to say that I've cracked out another 1,400 words bringing the current total to just over 73,000.

I'm on to the last chapter which is pretty much the tie-up and tidy-up chapter. The big climax has just been done and all that's left is the wrap up.

Tomorrow should prove interesting as I'm back at work and then have the continuation of my eBook writing course/woorkshop at the Queens Park Centre ...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

40 out of 48

That's the number of hours I worked Thurs-Fri on the Skype 'Happy Birthday' shoot at Elstree Studios. A number of other similar shoot were taking place across the world - LA, NY ... Bristol - where bands/musicians were filmed singing a 'happy birthday' message to someone via a Skype multi-person web-call.

Directed by Adam Coop of Angelic Digital the two bands we used were Scarlet Grey - an Indie rock band from LA, and Kill The Young - a trio of brothers from Manchester.

Very long two days but the result looks like it's going to be good.

Today I have mostly been sleeping.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Final Curtain

For my original six-week eBook writing course at Queens Park Centre, anyway.

I've been really pleased that the turnout for the classes has been pretty constant and, if the feedback given is to be believed, very well received. The Centre seem really happy with the response saying that the previous 'writing classes' haven't been as well attended.

When I originally approached the Centre back in the late spring we didn't know who or how many people would be interested in the course so in the current (autumn) Centre brochure we agreed that the listing would only show it as being a six-week run, with no carry-on after the upcoming half-term. What we've now agreed is that in the next brochure (winter) we'll advertise two six-week courses running either side of the first half-term in the New Year.

For the guys who've just completed the course I've agreed to run 'workshops' in the intervening weeks to help with any issues/problems they have in developing their stories. What's been really interesting is that a few of them have shown an interest in having one session dedicated to screenwriting, to give them a basic overview of how it works and the differences between narrative and screenplay format.

Dammit, I didn't win the Booker

But then again I've not been published.

Congratulations though to Julian Barnes who, for the third time of asking, has won the Man Booker prize (and £50,000) with his novel The Sense of an Ending. Julian has been previously shortlisted in 1984 (Flaubert's Parrot), 1998 (England, England) and 2005 (Arthur and George). In his acceptance speech he is reported to have said, "I'd like to thank the judges ... for their wisdom and the sponsors for their cheque."

There has been some criticism levelled at the judging panel for 'putting a focus on "readability" over literary merit', but Chairwoman Dame Stella Rimmington said that the winner had been chosen unanimously, describing it as having "the markings of a classic English literature."

At just 150 pages it's the second shortest novel to win - the shortest was Penelope Fitzgerald's 1979 winner Offshore, coming in at a whopping 132 pages.  *** Update *** I've just read on The Bookseller website that Random House is re-printing 75,000 copies of Julian's book following his win.

My own writing is continuing and one day, one day ... Okay, maybe not. I don't think I write quite what the Booker judges are looking for. However, my Tiberius Found story is squeakingly close to completing first draft. I had a good day yesterday and cracked out nearly 1,300 words, taking the current count to just over 71,000 words. I'm at the point of pretty much the climax of the novel where SECTION DELETED TO PREVENT SPOILER INFORMATION. So, pretty exciting stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. I reckon a few more days like that and it'll be ready to leave for a month before I get back to it.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

In The Mood screening

This morning I went to a screening of Adam Coop's In The Mood - his short film set on VJ Day about a village girl whose G.I. boyfriend is about to be shipped back home. Adam wrote and directed the film - through his Angelic Films production company - as a vehicle for the three central characters who in real life are 'The Polka Dots' an American-style close harmony swing trio consisting of (from left to right) Michelle, Ella-Louise and Laura, managed by Scott Jordan Entertainment.

I acted as a 'Runner' for the shoot - spending most of the first mammoth day asking people to be quiet - and the second (much shorter day - only twelve hours) as the only Runner but also helping out the Art department. It was actually very interesting - as a wannabe writer, seeing it from a production perspective was an education.

There were about a hundred cast/crew/family at the Empire Cinema in High Wycombe this morning and I thought that the present cut was pretty good. It really does have a 'big screen' feel. The film still needs a little cleaning and when that's done (and after Adam's sorted out some copyright issues over the music) it'll hopefully be entered into a number of festivals.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Happy writers

The scheduled, penultimate, week of my eBook writing course at Queens Park Centre in Aylesbury went ahead last night. Now, when I originally planned this course with the Centre administrator we didn't know how, it at all, popular it'd be - previous writing classes there hadn't been well attended at all - so in their brochure we only stated a six-week course.

However, I'm really happy to say the guys on the course are really enjoying it and tell me that they're getting a benefit from it. They're coming back each week, so that's a good sign. So, I'll be running the same course starting again in the New Year which will have identical promo material as this course had, but to keep the momentum rolling I'm going to be continuing the monday night meetings (after half term) with the current people as more of a casual writing 'workshop'.

A couple of the guys have also asked about including some time to cover screen-writing, as well, which is nice as it gives me something else to get my teeth into.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

More sad news

It seems that the news is full of obituaries, of late.

It's been announced that George Baker died of pneumonia on Friday, following a stroke. He was 80 years old and had a career spanning nearly sixty years.

He was best known for playing DCI Reg Wexford in the TV adaptations of the Ruth Rendell stories, and at one point was considered for the James Bond role.

But my first memories of him was playing the role of Tiberius in the splendid 1976 adaptation of Robert Grave's I, Claudius, acting alongside Derek Jacobi, Sian Phillips and John Hurt.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Steve Jobs - 1955-2011

It seems that the sad news of Steve Jobs' death following his long-term battle with cancer has had an effect on people worldwide. Perhaps not on a similar scale of the Diana-phenomenon - thankfully - but is indicative of the influence Apple, and the products that Jobs spearheaded, has had on the way we all communicate with each other.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Up and Downs

UPS
My fourth week at Queens Park Centre and my eBook writing course went off last night, with almost a full house. We had nine of the ten that have ever attended.

Some are getting really into it and have already generated cover art-work. In fact one of them - an artist, already - has produced a cover that wouldn't look out of place on a professionally published piece of work. I'm even thinking about commissioning her to do my next cover.

Those that have produced work for me to offer feedback have received my notes well and have already began to amend their work. They all seem to be really enjoying the class and it's nice to think that I'm helping them.

DOWNS
I've received two rejections this week. One for a very short story; they liked my writing style (which is good) but not the story subject matter. The other for the short screenplay I wrote for the script call off Shooting People; Anti-Thought Crime.

All part of the game, I guess. Keep smiling, keep writing.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Ten days is a long time ...

Either in politics or real-life.

A lot's happened in the last ten days - I've catered for 100 Live-Action Role Players (with two helpers), ran the third class in my eBook writing course, spent another day on a film shoot, read about thirty entries for the Meridian Writing autumn competition (plus doing all the associated 'paperwork') and written a 6-page short for a newly graduating film director (Director of Photography, from a script call on Shooting People).

The LARP catering was for Herofest at the Candlestone camp site near Bridgend, South Wales.The kitchen there is pretty basic and the oven decided it wasn't going to work from Friday afternoon. Nice. Still, in a Heath Robinson way, we managed to produce two evening meals, two full breakfasts and one lunch for 100 people. Saturday was a seventeen hour day for me.

On Monday evening I ran the third of my eBook writing classes at Queens Park Centre. We had three no-shows from previous weeks (two of which I knew about) but one returned from week one, and two new people.

On Tuesday I returned to the set of The Polka Dots at a village hall, just outside Great Missenden. This was for the shots that the crew ran out of time to do during the mammoth shoot a few Sundays ago. We met at 1pm - filmed a short sequence for another film, by Chris Hughes - then set up for the re-shoot. What was supposed to be a 9-hour day turned into another 12-hour.

I had Wednesday off. Almost.

Yesterday I caught up on paperwork and contacted a guy called Jonathan Flint, in respect to a script call he placed on Shooting People. He's a 3rd-year film student (DOP) at University of Creative Arts in Farnham. He sent me the premise for what he wants and it sounded interesting, so I spent most of yesterday afternoon/evening writing a 6-page script. It's called Anti-Thought Crime and centres around a new drug being used to make recidivist criminals feel the emotional impact of their crimes. He supplied the central idea and one or two scenes but left the rest open, to develop. I introduced a sub-plot surrounding the real reson why the first inmate was chosen to be subjected to the drug and the effects of what happened after.

Regardless of whether he likes it or wants huge changes etc etc (as is common with this sort of thing) it's another good learning exercise for me - to be able to produce a script, and one that I'm happy with - in a short time-frame.

So today I am mostly taking it easy.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

eBook writing course - Week 2

The second week of my eBook writing course at Queens Park Centre went ahead last night - and I had most of the six that came on week one come back!

One lady couldn't make it for personal reasons (but her husband attended), one of the guys was a no-show and we had a new woman. The guys from week one managed to do the homework I set them - pretty much - and I was really quite pleased with what they managed to produce. One of the ladies - who wants to write and illustrate a children's story - revealed that she was slightly dyslexic, and was so 'frightened' about letting me read what she'd written, she was actually shaking. But she managed to produce a really interesting premise which has good scope, so she left with a broad smile.

The homework was for them to do a first draft of their story. Pretty daunting, but as I won't get it back until week three it doesn't leave much time to help them with it before the end of the course.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Dragon's Den - UK Riot Special

Sometimes genuis is created from terrible events. The recent UK riots that caused so much damage and harm to London and a number of other cities seemed to only have a negative press, with probably justified reasons.

However, another comedy/spoof has been created by using the riots as a back-drop, and been loaded onto YouTube.  I've seen a number of mash-ups like this before - MasterChef, etc - but this one is pure genius. The 'story' and editing is just superb. These guys should go on to make a full-blown comedy series.

But be warned - there is some strong langauage and bizarre expressions (as Theo is demonstrating).

Monday, 12 September 2011

Ok. The first of my eBook creative writing lessons at the Queen's Park Centre kicked off with a pretty good turnout, considering what I was given to believe might happen.

Six.

Thanks Steve (or should that be Mr Austin?) but that's just six, not six million.

I think it went pretty well - for the most part they seemed to be interested and got involved when prompted. The fifteen-minute writing exercise produced work and they all appeared to be taking notes and asking questions.

I guess I'll see if it was as good as I hope it was if they all turn up next week. Fingers crossed.

Andy Whitfield - RIP


'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' star Andy Whitfield has sadly died at the age of 39, from non-Hodgkins Lymphona. The Welsh-born actor died in his Australian home in the 'arms of his loving wife', Vashti.

Andy shot to fame in the title role of the Starz 'Spartacus' production and won a legion of fans and admirers due to his acting ability as well as his physique.

Some critics dismissed 'Spartacus: Blood and Sand' as a poor 300-like imitation (I was one of them, initially) that hid behind gratuitous violence and nudity but on closer viewing it was a fine character-driven drama that only happened to be set during the Roman Empire.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

eBook Course at Queen's Park Centre

The six-week eBook creative writing course I'm running at the Queen's Park Centre in Aylesbury starts tomorrow night and I've just put the finishing touches to the Lesson Planning schedule. This'll be my first course at the centre and I've been fine-tuning what'll be in each of the hour-and-a-half lessons for a while now.

Without knowing how many students will be there (the Centre tells me there will definitely be some ...) I'm not sure how much discussion time there'll be, so determining how much content to put in each lesson - particularly the first - has proven difficult. But I'll find out tomorrow.

It'll either be tumbleweed or extra seats.

Cliff Robertson - RIP

With all the down-beat news regarding the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, news has come out of Hollywood that Cliff Robertson has died at the age of 88. He passed away on Saturday - the day after his birthday - from natural causes.

His career spanned over 60 years, was one of Hollywood's most recognisable actors and owner of a very distinctive voice.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy remake

I wasn't aware that this film had been re-made but after watching the trailer from it on the Yahoo! site I think it'll be well worth a watch. The trailer can be viewed here. The original 1979 TV mini-series starring Alec Guinness was just superb, and not in the least because it was a time when the Cold War was still strong. Anything else will have a lot to live up to but this one might just be able to do it.

It is directed by Tomas Alfredson (of Let the Right One In fame) and has a frighteningly stellar cast which includes (amongst others) Gary Oldman (as George Smiley), Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, the Great Tom Hardy, Ciaran Hinds, John Hurt and Mark Strong.


'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' is released in the UK on 16th September.

Tiberius breaks 65,000 mark

Momentum is a strange thing. Once pace has been achieved it seems so much easier to keep going. I know that's not any great revelation for the world of physics but it really is surprising how much easier it seems when you have it.

I hadn't been paying as much attention to finishing my Tiberius Found story a month or so back, as I should have, but over the last few weeks - as I'm sure you're aware of - I've been knuckling down and had a concerted effort to complete the first draft.

Today - and I haven't finished yet, just taking a break you know - I broke through the 65,000 word mark, which means that in the last month or so I've written in excess of 10,000 words. Again, not hugely earth-shattering, but now that I can really see the finish line I feel more like having a final push to get it done.

And - and this is perhaps more important - I'm actually happy with the work done. It'll need more than a polish afterwards - as all work does - but for now I'm pretty happy with what I've done so far. Words  + contentment = happy writer.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

And the words roll in

Despite indulging in beer and curry last night - Mongo Jnr's birthday - I've had a really good afternoon at the laptop and managed a very satisfying 1,500 words for my Tiberius Found story. Get in.

Thank you, Dr Zoidberg - that's just how I feel.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A good/bad day

Yesterday was a good day (for writing).

It was a bad day on Monday in respect to Banking customer service (Santander) who still, it seems, want to hang on to my money from a closed account as long as they can. B*stards! First they send me an un-signed cheque then go through the process of wondering why this is a problem for me. I was told another chq would be raised (last Wednesday) but when didn't arrive I had to call again. Apparently emails have been deleted and no one knows why - the upshot being no new chq has been issued.

I loved the Supervisor's choice of language when she said that she was grateful that I had 'allowed' her the time to resolve the problem. As if I had any real say in the matter - they do what they want in their own sweet time. A new chq might be raised in 5-7 (working) days.

My advice for anyone considering opening a business account with Santander - DON'T.

Anyway - stress levels reduced I got on with writing and knocked out a 1,000+ word day on my Tiberius Found story. First in a while. And a 1,000 words that I'm pretty happy with, so it's all good news. It's nearing the end and it's all starting to go wrong for our hero. Oh, dear.

*the pic is from the Santander are Shit Facebook page. Makes interesting reading ...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tiberius Found latest

My futuristic YA adventure novel has just broken through the 60,000 word mark.

It's not finished in first-draft form yet but I'm getting close. Three-and-a-half chapters left to go.

Happy Birthday UK Scriptwriters

Danny Stack and Tim Clague - the 'brains' behind the UK Scriptwriters - are 1 year old! That is, the Podcast they do not the fine gentlemen themselves: they're WAY older. Tim and Danny are well known writers in the industry and each month they produce a podcast which covers a selection of screenwriting areas.

If you haven't caught any of their past podcasts then I can highly recommend them - they're fun as well as being educational. I know; how does that work?

And each month they have a 'guess the film quote' competition. Danny does his famous Leprechaun* impersonation and says a well-known film quote. All you have to do (once you stop laughing at how bad his accent is) is identify the film the quote comes from. They're being co-sponsored by Industrial Scripts at the moment and the prize consists of a place on one of their script reading courses, as well as some other goodies.

*It's OK - it's not racism as Danny comes from the Emerald Isle.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Just sit down and do the bloody work

I beleive the usual saying is "get off your arse and do some work" but with writing it's the arse you have to stick to a chair to get the work done. Of course, with mobile devices now being what they are, that's not strictly true but you know what I mean.

I've made a concerted effort recently to crack on with my teenage adventure/thriller Tiberius Found and get the first draft finished as soon as possible. The story centres on Jacob Henstock who discovers, on his sixteenth birthday, that he's been genetically engineered and those responsible want him back. His parents are killed and, to survive, he's forced to go on the run. His one ally is the Professor who saved him from being experimented upon as a child, but when the Professor is captured Jacob feels duty-bound to return home and save him.

If only it was as simple as knowing who to trust.

By my reckoning I've got four chapters left to write - I block out the key beats in an Excel spreadsheet, so I can keep track of what's happened and what's left to do. In the last few days I've managed to knock out about three-thousand words, and have an estimated three- to five-thousand words left to go. Did I say "knock out"? I meant "intelligently craft".

Monday, 25 July 2011

Don't you just hate it when ...

... you have half-written the first draft of a screenplay and then see a trailer for a movie that's in post production which has pretty much the same theme?

Yeah, me too. Knights of Badassdom is a soon-to-be-released film where a group of (US) live role-players summon a Succubus and have to deal with her. You can see the YouTube clip with the previous link. Sound familiar? Well, it does to me.

My screenplay-in-progress Dead Role-Players has a similar theme where a group of (UK) live role-players summon demon and have to deal with it. Bugger. Still, my finished screenplay is a long way off and (hopefully) by the time when it's anywhere near sending out it may be time for another LARP-based horror-comedy. Maybe.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's been a while ...

... since the last post, so time for an update.

Like most years I've been glued to the ITV4 coverage of the Tour de France. I'm not a cyclist and the TdF is the only one I regularly watch, but what a sporting event it is. Three weeks of sheer pain (for the riders who are lucky enough to ride it all) with some horrendous mountains in their way. It seems that only broken bones will stop these professionals; with mere thirty-odd stitches and thigh-long road rash injuries being a petty inconvenience to them.

Professional footballers, take note.

And it's great news that Mark Cavendish is leading in the Green Jersey Points competition. Let's hope he wears green all the way to the sprint finish in Paris (where he'll win, of course)

In the last week or so I've been cracking on with the Tiberius Found story, generating lesson plans for a creative writing course I'm due to run in September and finalising the results for the recent Meridian Writing summer competition. I had a formal interview for a sessional tutor's job yesterday (which went OK, I think) and celebrated by buying the Writers' and Artists' Handbook 2012 on my way back home.

If you don't get any of the various 'Yearbooks' that Bloomsbury produce, then you should. They're invaluable assets that every writer should make use of.

Oh, and I'd like to welcome Noel, as a new follower. Great to have you along.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Screen flops of 2011

Perhaps Hollywood has lost its golden touch, with a series of big screen flops in 2011. According to The Hollywood Reporter the following results have been achieved (the percentage in brackets are based on production costs not including any marketing fees):
  • 'The Beaver' - Lost £11.8m (-94%)
  • 'Mars Needs Moms' - Lost £69.7m (-74%)
  • 'Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs Evil' - Lost £10.3m (-54.7%)
  • 'Your Highness' - Lost £15.8m (-50%)
  • 'Joody Moody and the Not Bummer Summer' - Lost £6.6m (-32%)
  • 'Prom' - Made £1.3m (+8.6%)
  • 'Sucker Punch' - Made £4.9m (+9.5%)
  • 'Arthur' - Made £3.6m (+14.4%)
  • 'Priest' - Made £9.5m (+25%)
  • 'Green Lantern' - Made £37m (+29.9%)
However, these all pale into insignificance with 'Love's Kitchen' starring Dougray Scott, Claire Forlani and Michelle Ryan - and with a guest appearance  by Gordon Ramsey - which grossed, that's GROSSED £121 in its opening weekend last month.

That's an approximate average of £24 each over the five cinemas it was shown at. Phew. What a scorcher. I can't find anywhere that details the production cost, but I reckon that someone's lost a bundle of cash on this one. Maybe the British love affair with Rom-coms has ended?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Killing ... on Channel 4

So the first two episodes of the American version of The Killing have just aired on Channel 4. Now, being a die-hard fan of the original Danish version I was more than a little sceptical of what the Yanks would have done to such a splendid piece of world drama. The original Forbrydelsen (The Crime) was so well produced and acted that after a very short while it almost didn't matter that it was subtitled. As Wallander has done before, the story carried the weight.

Based on previous US 'remakes' of foreign (by which I mean non English-speaking) TV and film, I had low expectations. I know that the 13-part series when it was aired in the US got pretty good reviews (apart from the series I climax which provoked a barrage of abuse) so maybe it wouldn't be too bad.

On first view Mireille Enos - who takes on the central role of Sarah Linden (Lund, in the Danish version) - seems to play the character with a similar low-key tone as Sofie Grabol did in the original, so maybe there's hope there. It would have killed  the whole tone (no pun intended) if they'd had her be a typically brash US detective.


The landscape chosen (supposedly Seattle, but apparently filmed in Vancouver) also looked similar in many aspects to the original Copenhagen, which is good because the landscape was as much of a character in the original drama as any of the actors. One other high-point in the US version is the casting of Michelle Forbes as Mitch, the murdered Rosie Larsen's mother. Forbes carries a gravitas that few other TV actresses can offer - and following in the footsteps of Ann Eleonora Jorgensen as Pernille Birk Larsen is no mean ask. Ann Eleonora gave a stellar performance as a distressed mother but Forbes - I'm sure - will be her equal.

It's no secret that the BBC have bought the broadcast rights to the second series of the Danish The Killing, which is due to be shown on BBC4 soon, and - according to the BBC4 website - it'll be re-running the original series this month. Coincidence, perhaps? From what I've read there is a third series of The Killing due to be aired in Denmark next year, so hopefully we'll get that over here before too long.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Blink and you've missed Luther

So, the fourth episode - and apparently last in the second series - of BBC's Luther starring Idris Elba (left) was shown last night, and it was still on cracking form. The twin killers playing a point-scoring game was utterly believable and the calm, sinister way that they went about their business was frighteningly realistic.

The petrol-dousing climax in the empty trailer could have gone either way with Luther becoming more and more like a Mel Gibson-esque nut-job. I wasn't a fan of the original series - feeling that the character of Luther was just a bit too OTT, but the writing, acting & direction of this series has turned me into a believer.

One thing I wasn't really sure of was that there were only four episodes (two 2-part stories) in this series. Can we really call it a series? There must have been such a high level of money committed to producing this that surely more episodes should have been warranted? I'm guessing that a third series has been, or will shortly be, commisioned. If this is the form of the team then it has to be a given.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

You just can't please some people ...

Everyone, it seems, is bagging out J.K. Rowling and her decision to e-publish her Harry Potter through her new Pottermore company. Some claim that it'll decimate an already dodgy market, that she's turning her back on the system that made her and sticking two-fingers up at them.

What a load of b*llocks.

What they all are seemingly forgetting is that it's her decision to make. These bricks and mortar companies have no claim over the HP entity or how the intellectual property is managed or treated. By JK restricting the outlet of the HP ebooks - going out over a multitude of platforms - she is allowing them to be more freely obtained and not 'dominated' by any one (already established) commercial provider. She is keeping control of the HP brand - just as she's done from the start.

She retained the e-publishing rights to the books (so the story goes) at a time when even email was thought daring and new, so fair play to her. Those that are whining now should stop complaining abut what they think they might be losing and just be eternally grateful that JK helped them sell millions of hard- and paperback copies of the series over the last however many years. They should be concentrating on nurturing new talent and not dwell on the gravy train that left the station years ago.

Monday, 27 June 2011

The last Liquid Lunch

Danny Stack - one half of the UK Scriptwriters team (with Tim Clague) - has just finished uploading the last of his 'Liquid Lunch' episdoes.

'Liquid Lunch' is 6 x 2min episodes posted on to YouTube in which friends Ollie and Alex discuss what they're going to do with their life. The first episdoe can be seen here.

Well done to Danny and all the team on getting this written and produced so quickly, although if you read his blog not without some pain.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Latest self published collection

My latest short story collection The Spirit is Willing ... is now available here on Amazon  - £0.86. It has four more stories with the central theme of the Undead: a vengeful spirit; a new vampire; a very old vampire; and some ghosts who want biscuits with their coffee.

These stories feature scenes of violence and contain strong language, and may not be suitable for younger readers.

Ready ... steady ... BUY!!!

Friday, 24 June 2011

Damn you Luther

I've eventually gotten around to watching the first two episodes of the new series of Luther (BBC1) starring Idris Elba and found myself getting slightly miffed.

For a while now I've been thinking about and 'developing' a story that featured Springheeled Jack as the bad guy. Springheeled Jack was a Victorian 'myth' who committed foul deeds and 'jumped away' - showing a clean pair of heels in the process.

However, it looks as if I'll have to shelve that plan. The splendid Lee Ingleby played the uber-creepy Cameron Pell (above) who styled his sins on the aforementioned Jack. Pell wore a Punch mask when killing people (right) and the whole way it was written and filmed worked exceptionally well. Luther's up to his old tricks again and I'm sure it'll get much worse before it gets better. If it ever does.

Also who else should pop up in the first two episodes? Possibly the hardest-working actress right now - Kierston Wareing. Not only has she recently had a pivotal role in BBC 2's The Shadow Line, she also featured in last Sunday's ITV Scott & Bailey. And after doing a quick IMDb search showed that she's got a gazillion other shows either in production or post-production. Does she ever sleep?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Selling Sweeney and pastures new

Scott Barber has let me know that due to budget issues Selling Sweeney is to be put on hold for the time being, although he tells me that it is still on his slate. With that in mind and him wanting to get SeeView Pictures off the ground wants to film a lower-cost, short piece.

His wife is a dentist and has access to a surgery in an old Victorian building. He asked me to write a max 10-page script, with two actors and the one setting in a similar vein to the Hammer House of Horror stories of the 80s.

So, with that in mind I've written Novocaine Will Numb the Pain - a 7-page, two character script. Although I did throw in a cheeky second location, but I feel it enforces and adds to the whole. It's about a distinctly odd dentist who lets a woman in to his surgery at the end of a day and without an appointment. It doesn't look good for her. But she's got secrets of her own.

The initial reaction has been that he likes the script but I anticipate some tweaking once a director gets attached. So maybe this will prove to be my first produced work ... It may all change before the end of the week.

ITV vs BBC ... and a bit of E4

I find it strange that at times there seems very little from terrestrial TV that's really worth watching. Perhaps it's what they call 'seasonal', I don't know. However, IMHO, there's been quite a bit worth watching of late.

I've recorded 'Camelot' (C4 - Saturdays) but have yet to watch it Sadly, though, most of the Arthurian interpretations leave more than a little to be admired. I really do wish that this isn't one of them.

BBC ... and predominantly on BBC2

The Shadow Line - written, produced and directed by Hugo Blick (in an interview Chris Eccleston said that Hugo would also have done the catering if he could) - brilliant in its build up and with a stellar cast which includes Mr Eccleston, Chewitel Ejiofor, Rafe Spall, Anthony Sher and Steven Rea. The last episode is this week. Will all the strings be tied up? Or is there a second series on the cards?

Physchoville 2 - Okay, it may have ended already but considering that they didn't know if they were going to get a second series, and with pretty much all the characters potentially dying at the end of the first, I thought that the mix of out-and-out comedy, mad surrealism and scary freakiness meant this was a must watch to fans of Mssrs Pemberton and Shearsmith. Brilliant, and will be added to the DVD collection.

Also, Luther returns tomorrow (14th) for a second series - always worth watching for Idris Elba, alone.

ITV

Scott & Bailey - starring Suranne Jones, Lesley Sharp (also in The Shadow Line), Amelia Bullmore (shark attack ... everyone loves a shark attack) and the superbly subtle Rupert Graves. This programme had (apparently) eight millions viewers for its opening episode and, although it does have some faults, is a solid female-led police drama. Much better than 'Vera' which should have been cracking but was simply Brenda doing a Columbo impression and doing it badly, I'm sorry to say.

Injustice - the five-episode series broadcast over one week. Now normally the one-week 'mini-series' that ITV broadcast aren't normally anything to get too excited about but with a top-rate cast (headed by James Purefoy) and written by Anthony Horowitz it kept my attention right to the end. The 'unreliable accounts' of some of the characters placed doubt as to the reality of actual events and, I thought, handled really well.

One of the flagship programmes for me on E4 is Misfits. I was late coming to this - probably because of the channel - but it is brilliant and now in its third series. Very, very clever scripting. The acting is first rate and equally well directed. It's now in its third series and will no doubt carry on for more.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

First US Kindle sale

I thought I'd check on my Kindle sales a short while ago and was very pleased to see that The Regret of Cause and Effect has been sold through the US Amazon site. It may not be in the Dan Brown league but hey, it's a start.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Selling Sweeney latest ...

Well, it's all change again.

As reported in my last post it had been several weeks since Scott Barber of SeeView Pictures mailed me about Selling Sweeney and what was going to happen with it. Scott mailed me yesterday to let me know that, due to budget constraints, Selling Sweeney is going to be put 'on the back burner' for the time being, but he still has the desire to film it in the near future.

And, with that in mind, he asked if I wanted to write him a max 10-page script based in a dentist's office, with two characters and with a Hammer House of Horror feel. Of course I said yes. This is interesting because, way back when, it was a Horror script call from Scott which first got me in touch with him.

I immediately started jotting down ideas and over the last two days wrote a 7-page script provisionally called Novocaine Will Numb the Pain. It features a dodgy dentist and (hopefully) an enjoyable twist. I sent him the first version earlier today and so far he's happy with it. Maybe this will be my first filmed work?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Selling Sweeney update

Well, it's been another long while since I last had an email from Scott Barber (the Producer) at SeeView Pictures regarding the Selling Sweeney script. However, one came through today. The director still didn't like the last offering and re-wrote it, putting his name first on the script ...

Now, you must understand Scott's initial vision was of a slick, Steve McQueen-type, hustle story that was current, modern and ultimately uplifting. He wanted this in no more than ten pages. The latest script suggested by the director came in at 27 pages.

I'm not too disappointed in hearing that Scott and the director have parted ways. It's annoying that it's taken months to get to this position with nothing happening but (hopefully) it will mean a new director will be attached who shares Scott's vision.

It may also mean more re-writes, but hopefully the script will still be filmed before the end of summer. My fingers are crossed.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Idiosyncrasies of Kindle formatting

On first look it's simple enough: save a .doc file as a .htm, run it through the mobi-pocket creator and create a .prc file ready to upload via the Kindle load pages. Simple.

However, there are, I've come to learn, some finer points which need tweaking to make the finished product look as good as it could. With two uploads already I think I've pretty much got it sorted, but it's not as straight forward as it first appears.

Hopefully all future Kindle uploads will be smoother and more professional-looking.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Another eBook collection on Amazon for Kindle

My second short story collection is now available on Amazon for Kindle and can be found here.

It's four more stories which this time touch on the the elements of crime which don't fall into the black and white of right and wrong: retribution, mis-carriage of justice, the desperation because all else has failed, and innocent bystanders.

It's another bargain at £0.86 and with Father's Day coming up is the perfect gift ...

I'm finishing off my next collection - featuring the undead and other oddities - which should be ready to upload soon.

So get buying. ;)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

No longer a self-publishing virgin

I've taken the first tentative steps into the world of self-publishing.


Amazon for Kindle has my four short-story collection 'The Regret of Cause and Effect' - adult stories which involve the consequences of human decisions. It's a snip at £0.86.


It can be found here

Friday, 27 May 2011

And I'm back in the land of the living ...

The BT Broadband got switched on last night and I'm here, at home, surfing and doing stuff.

Ahh, it's good to be back. No more lugging around the laptop to the library or other wi-fi spots.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Typical ...

Just when I have something to report and the opportunity to do so ... I find that Blogger has gone into 'read only' mode.

Is that a message from some higher spiritual entity telling me that I shouldn't bother? Maybe, but here goes anyway.

I should have singing and dancing* broadband in just under a couple of week's time. Some faff with TalkTalk - should they be renamed TalkShite? - put me back by just over a week and have gone with BT, in the end. Can't wait to not have to plan a visit into town to use WiFi. The luxury of being able to check email, do online research and format scripts whenever I want is almost within tasting reach.

Anything happened while I've been away? No?

*they haven't promised any singing or dancing but I'm still hopeful

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sad day for Dr Who fans

I know I'm not alone in being saddened upon hearing the news that the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Sladen has died. I grew up with her as Sarah Jane Smith with Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker, and after the series was brought back was delighted to see her first as a guest appearance then with a series in her own right.



Elizabeth made SJS one of the more memorable Dr Who companions and gave a depth of humanity to the terrors and ordeals that the two Doctors she accompanied. She will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Life without Broadband is ...

NOT EASY.

Living in a temporary address and not having the customary broadband access that I was used to is not easy. How many times have I been to the wi-fi place (half an hour walk away from the house) and remembered something that I a) intended to do, or b) really should have done whilst on-line? Answer - too bloody many.

I'm sure the guys at the wi-fi place think I'm a coffee freak.

Soon. Soon there will be a semi-permanent address and then there will be bradband. Oh, yes. It will happen.

Anyway, writing going well. Job interview lined up for just after bank holiday and the sun is shining. So it's not all bad.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Move complete

Well, I'm now ensconced into Aylesbury - still haven't decided on a suitable alliteration for it yet, though - and am coming to terms with the lack of broadband service. I'm currently relying on wi-fi in local pubs and coffee shops, so it's not all that bad.

I'm writing and sorting out the logistics of running the Meridian Writing site in the mornings at the moment and then venturing into Aylesbury to send/read e-mail. Tough, but things are getting done. Just have to find employment now ...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Has it really been that long ...?

Has it really been eleven days since my last post. Phew, really? Wow.

Still, lots happening. My business (the restaurant) closed on Saturday. It was a long time coming and the hanging-on-by-the-fingernails had gone on far too long and it was time to shut up shop. At least there was some symmetry with the final night being a private function for a Hen party - my first function was a Hen party, so it seemed appropriate to end on the same. The thirteen women were quite kind and I didn't get de-bagged.

With the closure of the restaurant it means that I can now move away and start again. I'll be out of sunny Somerset by the end of the month and ensconced into Aylesbury (I haven't found an alliteration for it yet), so have lots of logistical things to sort out.

One thing coinciding with my move away is the last two parts of the splendid Danish crime thriller/drama The Killing on BBC Four. Twenty hours of TV which has been gripping from the first minutes of the opening episode. It's just a shame that it's been given a late night slot on Saturdays and repeated on Wednesdays, and on a cable/satellite channel. Accepted, it does have some strong language and the subject matter is not for the easily shocked but it's nothing which isn't on regular TV with a better viewing window.

Scott Barber has let me know that the filming of Selling Sweeney is still looking good for an April shoot but doesn't have any hard dates yet.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Reply from BBCwritersroom for 'The Killing Ground'

I had my reply back from the BBCwritersroom today with the reader's notes. Rather unsurprisingly; the script needs more work, but the notes that the reader has added are invaluable and offers areas in which improvements can be made. On the positive side they did compare it with 'Spooks' and the US series' Sleeper Cell and NCIS.

It may take a while to get a reply to work sent into the BBCwritersroom but, assuming you get a full read, the notes they provide offer an insight which may not have occured to you at the time of writing and can guide you forwards with improving. And it's free.

I think I'm going to let the notes sink in and re-work this in time for a Red Planet submission - assuming that they're running their prize this year.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Well, I've bitten the bullet and sent off my Alibi TV's New Crimewriter competition story. Bitten the bullet - crime - get it? Okay, I give up. Hopefully my story will be appreciated better than that. At least I'm not trying to write comedy.

My story is called 'The Dead Ground' and it focuses on the murder of a local rifle club member on Exmoor who had claimed to have shot The Emperor Stag, in October 2010. It took me two days to get 99% of it written and another couple to fine-tune/check for typos/grammar etc. I know the deadline isn't for a while (1st May) but I could've tweaked it for weeks and not made it any better.

Apart from the story having to be well written (obviously) the organisers are looking for a piece which has 'a strong sense of place'. I'm hoping that the location (around Exmoor), specific topography (Somerset red mud), actual events (the shooting of the Emperor Stag) and character name (DI Chedzoy) help to convey all that they're looking for.

The eight shortlisted stories - one each from North England, South England, Midlands, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, along with two wild-card stories - will be announced on 1st June and put to public vote. I'll let you know how it goes. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Alibi TV's New Crimewriter competition

Alibi TV (along with HarperCollins and Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate) are running the new Crimewriter competition again this year.

Stories need to be between 1,000-2,500 words and have a strong sense of 'local' place about them. The comp opened mid-February and runs until 1st May, with eight shortlisted stories announced 1st June, where they go before a public vote and 'expert judges' to decide on the winning entry.

The comp is free to enter - 1 entry per person - and for over 17s only.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Adult fairy tale collection

A new friend of mine - Claire Rowland - has recently published a three-part Adult Fairy Tale collection on Amazon, called Piroska - which you can find here.

Claire has won the Meridian Writing short story competitions twice in the past and this is her first forray into the big, bad world of published work. Claire normally writes adult fiction with a harder, darker edge than most and can really make you sympathise and wince at her central characters.

Congratulations to her for getting this off the ground, and lets hope that it's the first of many.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

'The Killing Ground' and BBCwritersroom

Some people knock the BBCwritersroom. A few go so far as to suggest that they simply trawl through submissions in the hope to 'appropriate' ideas. But it's a free service (to the submitter) and not in their charter remit to have to offer the service, so with 10,000+ submissions a year across multiple TV and radio formats I don't think that anyone can really fault them.

Sure, the machine is slow - with a four month turnaround per piece, and you can only submit one piece at a time - but it's free. Basically, in the initial 'filter' they read the first ten pages (at most) and decided if the work warrants a full read by an out-sourced reader - someone who is experienced and who knows what they're talking about.

I sent them the first episode of my terrorist drama 'The Killing Ground' last October and had a four-month date of mid February. Seeing as though it was a couple of weeks or so over the due date notification I decided to follow the instructions on the confirmation card they sent to ask what the situation was.

I had a reply within minutes (which surprised me) to say that it (the script) had been taken for a full read and was expected back in the office later this month. They said they'd let me have the feedback then also apologised for the delay.

Not that I'm a proliferate submitter to the writersroom, but I've sent two pieces in and had two full reads, so I'm happy. Their notes are constructive, impartial and very helpful.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dead Island trailer

Piers Beckley posted this trailer on his 'Between the Pavement and the Stars' blog a few days ago, and it's brilliant. It's a trailer for a game - 'Dead Island', but as a stand-alone piece of short film it's amazing.


If anyone thought that game writing/story-telling was simple then this puts that theory to bed. This is a genius piece of story-telling at its finest. I wonder if the game can live up to it ...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tiberius latest

The last few days has seen a surge in the Tiberius Found story. I've written just over 5,200 words - approx. 1,700 words/day - which has bumped the current word count to just over 44,000.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I find it so odd that for ages I seem to have a slump in the word count production and then all of a sudden they just flow. It might help that I've got to the bit (which in a screenplay would be described as the Act II climax/Break into Act III) which turns the world upsdie down for the Hero and sets him on the course which will descide not only his fate, but also the fate of those he cares about.

The decisions he makes from this point will have life-changing consequences, and sets up the final showdown between him and the bad guy. If this were a Panto, you could now Boo and Hiss.

This final act is pretty fast-paced with action leading to information which leads to more action which in turn leads to Space Elephants. I'm joking about the Space Elephants. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. But the resolution is fairly energenitc with (hopefully) a few twists along the way. And I'm enjoying writing it.

Will he manage to over-come the obstacles and defeat the bad guy? And if so, what price will he have to pay? First draft here we come.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

More Tiberius, more

Following on from the post the other day (as written about here)  Tiberius Found - my story about the genetically modified boy - has grown by another 1,700 words today, and broken through the 40,000 mark.

I don't know about other writers but I find it really odd that at times I just look at the page and although I know what I want to write, it just doesn't happen and at other times the words just flow. I know which I'd prefer to be the norm. Still, all progress is good and I'm happy with the way it's going.

And it's going to get bloody for him before it gets better: this lad is not going to have it easy ...

Birthday Gift Requests

With several birthdays coming up in the next few months of close friends and family I thought I'd get ahead of the game and ask what people might want as gifts, rather than just getting something last minute that was neither apprpriate nor wanted. And what a diverse list I was given. Some ranging from the unexpected 'new car' (do they really think I'm made of money?) to 'oh, just anything. I don't mind'.

However, some of the specific requested items included the immensly affordable gillette mach 3 razor. For a man, I might add. The ladies seemed to opt for a set of GHDs - pink being the prefered colour. The young lad who works for me suggested a timex ironman watch because he does triathalons. And last but by no means least the request for one of the flotec pumps range.

By my calculations I think that a few people might get a birthday and christmas present in one. Unless, of course I win the lottery in which case that person can have her new Saab.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Selling Sweeney and Other Scripts

After a few more emails with notes from the director and Scott another version (dare I say the last ...) of Selling Sweeney has been written. It incorporates some of the ideas of the director whilst staying true to the original concept - and I think it's much better for it.

Dialogue which didn't really contribute was mercilessly hacked out to make room for scenes which added depth to the emotional reason behind the protagonists motives as well as making it clear what a shit the antagonist is.

I think the ending is much stronger now and adheres to Scott's original concept for the mood of the piece. And I've managed to keep it withing ten pages! Although, interestingly - if it were formatted into US Letter, it would add a whole extra page to it.

There's still rough shooting date of march/april so right now it all looks good.

Also, I've loaded Coffee, Biscuits and Bullets as an extra page to this blog - you can either click on the link here or link via the 'Work (Finished or In Progress)' section to the right. Any directors/producers out there who see it and like it then by all means get in touch and we can discuss it.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Tiberius is Getting Bigger

It may have been a while ago since I last posted an update on my 'regular' writing so I thought it was time for another. My latest YA Novel - Tiberius Found increased by 1,200+ words today. I was at a point where I knew what was going to happen and just needed to push through and write the bloody thing.

It's looking like it'll be around a 60,000 final word count mark (as if these things can ever really be gauged?) at I'm currently at the high 38,000s. I'm hoping to have a first draft finished april/may time.

War of the Dead - update

Despite earlier hopes that War of the Dead would be premiered at the Berlin Film Festival Andrew Tiernan has let me know that the final colour grade on War of the Dead is due to be completed in Rome next month, meaning that it will miss screening in the Berlinale.

The good news though is that it has sold the UK rights which means some sort of distribution will happen, although no further news as to who's bought the rights and what sort of release is planned, or when.

Five years and more in the making, we can wait another few months ...

British Bookshops and Stationers' closures

Following on from an earlier posting about the BB&S situation - there is more news:

Zolfo Cooper, the administrators dealing with BB&S has announced that although they are still looking for interest in the remaining 28 stores, it's likely that some branches will close within a month unless last-minute interested parties can be found.

Apparently some branches (no details of which ones) are due to shut their doors for good next Wednesday (23rd) whilst overs may remain open until some time in March. A number of disgruntled employees place the blame firmly at the feet of the company's owners/upper management saying that they doubted they could organise a party (my re-wording) in a brewery, and it's the hard-working shop/head office support staff who are getting the dirty end of the stick. That said, it was reported a few days ago that BB&S former MD John Simpson was owed a little over £82,000.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Jamie must be happy

According to Nielsen Bookscan Jamie Oliver has topped both the Hardback and Paperback non-fiction charts this week, for the second time. His '30-minute Meals' (published by Michael Joseph) topped the hardback list (49,899 copies) and his fourth Comic Relief recipe book 'Jamie's Monster Bake Sale' (Penguin) headed-up the paperback (7,777 copies).

He has to be happy with that. Pukka

Monday, 14 February 2011

BB&S Debts announced

The financial debts of troubled British Bookshops and Stationers were announced over the weekend, reports The Bookseller. Following close on the heels of news last week that W H Smith had acquired 22 of the chain's stores for £1m, the full details of outstanding money to unsecured creditors was revealed: £6.3m, with BB&S only being able to pay out a total of £2.2m, despite W H Smith buying 22 stores for £1m (as mentioned here).

Those owed large sums are: Hachette companies (Bookpoint, and Littlehampton Book Services) for just over £1m, Random House's distribution company The Book Service $443,317 and both Macmillan Distribution and HarperCollins each for approx. £500,000.

Zolfo Cooper, the administrators dealing with BB&S say they are still "actively pursuing" opportunities for the remaining stores, which continue to trade until decisions are made as to their future.

Valentine's Day ... and all that brings

I got caught up in a conversation the other day as seeing as though it's St Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to mention it. Someone at work - a customer who is a semi-regular visitor - started telling me that he's recently signed up to an online dating service, and was surprised about how well it was going.

Apparently he found the particular dating site as a result of a web search and viewing top dating sites. Now this particular guy wouldn't be the sort of person you'd immediately picture as the typical dating service member: he's in his fifties, and divorced with no kids. It was towards the end of the evening and he'd had a few glasses of wine, and he was telling me he was surprised about the amount of interset he was getting from ladies of a similar age; mostly just after friendship and someone to spend time with.

I think online dating services have a bad rep but if it's working for this guy then all power to him, I say. Me? I'm sorted, thanks.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

SBFF - Worst Film Festival Ever?

Probably not, but the documentary made by Americans Steve Rosen and Terri DeBono of their experiences at the Swansea Bay Film Festival 2010 (last May), doesn't do it any favours.

These guys travelled over 6,000 miles to attend the 'Festival' because thay had been nominated for an award for their documentary Boyhood Shadows - "I swore I'd never tell", which was about child abuse. I know that documentaries can be edited so that only the filmmaker's persepctive is highlighted but this really makes you wonder what the founding director (and apparent owner of the Festival) - Binda Singh - was really more concerned about. The Festival had no catalogue, no hard time slots, just a running order: they just started films at one point during the day and a film was shown was it was shown. The basic list of the films didn't even include a synopsis of what the film was about - just the title and running time. To make it worse: the schedule kept changing. It certainly looked as if he was more concerned about just getting through, rather than the people's work which made the Festival possible.

One comment that was made was that it was (apparently) down to the filmmakers to find an audience for their film, but without a definite time slot how could they do that? And more importantly, why should they have to? Isn't that down to promotional material from the organisers?

It's a shame that Mr Singh has such an apparent disregard for filmmakers and their efforts. It doesn't matter how far they travel (although the longer the distance the worse it seems for them) as long as the Festival is well organised and promoted. If the audience is pretty much only made up of other filmmakers and they may not know even what the film is about before the screening starts, then it's a pretty poor showing from a Festival organiser's point of view.

It did seem that the SBFF organisers may have been more concerned with profit over presentation. The 2011 Festival runs May 7th -15th and it'll be interesting to hear what experiences filmmakers have of this one.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Shooting script? Not by a long way ...

Following on from this post about Selling Sweeney ...

The latest Selling Sweeney'news is that Scott has had some feedback from another director friend and the main comment he had was that - although the premise, characters and locations were good - it lacked any real conflict. Conflict that I was asked to remove from an earlier version in an attempt to cut down on locations and characters...

A few suggestions have been made (by the director friend, Scott and myself) as how to improve the situation and I feel another rewrite is imminent.

Am I disheartened? Am I frustrated? Not really. This is all part and parcel of the writing industry. I fully expected that when a definite director was attached (and I'm not sure that the guy offering comments is the one) then changes would be called for. It's almost as if the director has to suggest changes to put their own stamp on a piece of work. C'est la vie.

I'm just waiting now to hear what amendments Scott wants me to make.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

War of the Dead update

Still no confirmation yet as to whether War of the Dead starring Andrew Tiernan will be actually be getting a premier at the Berlinale next month. However there is the unofficial 2011 trailer for it on You Tube.  Unofficial because ( I believe) there are still production issues. Click on the link and watch.

Come on, Mr Tiernan.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

'Selling Sweeney' latest

Scott took possession of the latest (and possibly 'shooting') script for 'Selling Sweeney' today. All things being equal it's still looking promising for a shoot in march/april, with the possibility of Mark Savage (Grange Hill's Gripper Stebson) taking the role of the 'bad guy' Peter Franks. This has yet to be confirmed but I think he'd have just the right level of smarm and arrogance the character needs.

Anyone who watched Grange Hill in the 80s may not recognise the name Mark Savage, but should definitely remember the uber-Bully Gripper Stebson he played. Mark is similar in style to Danny Dyer, but hasn't had the break-through success that Mr Dyer's enjoyed. Maybe this project will propel him back into the limelight?

Scott's already got a composer on board and has lined up meetings with people on both sides of the camera for when he's back in the UK in a week or so's time. I'm trying to remain calm and relaxed about it all. I wonder how long that'll last?

W H Smith buys 22 BB&S Stores

As reported on The Bookseller website this morning W H SMith (High Street) has bought 22 out of the 51 British Bookshops & Stationers stores, which had fallen into administration earlier in the year, in a deal worth just over £1m. This deal secures 200 jobs although 40 Head Office staff were made redundant when administration came into effect.

The 22 stores now under W H Smith ownership are:

Bexhill
Bognor
Brighton (London Rd)
Brighton (Western Rd)
Chichester
Crowborough
Dorking
Eastbourne
Hailsham
Hove
Lancing
Lewes
Littlehampton
Reigate
Rustington
Seaford
Sevenoaks
Shoreham
Southwick
Teddington
Tunbridge Wells
Uckfield

No word has yet been announced as to the fate of the remaining stores.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

First 'short' shoot?

The latest update from Scott is that (as far as anything can be certain before it's actually done) 'Selling Sweeney' will be his first short produced. Which is great news and really very exciting. He's due back in the UK in a couple of weeks or so and the London meet looks like it'll happen.

I was at a local writer's get together in Taunton last night, where I passed on the good news and was treated almost as if I was royalty. Odd. I suppose that being part of a group with some positive news cheers everyone on and, although I kept saying that the filming hadn't happened yet so there was no guarantee, they were all really excited about it.

The last week has been an emotional roller-coaster, but I guess that's all part and parcel of this crazy writing business. Something that I wouldn't mind getting used to. The next step is actually getting paid for it ...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Waterstones to close 11 branches

As reported in the media at large and on The Bookseller website, Waterstones is to close 11 branches by the end of the week. The branches concerned are throughout the UK and Ireland, with the following outlets affected:

Dublin, Dawson Street
Dublin, Jervis Street
Colchester, Culver Square
Worcester, High Street
Guildford, North Street
Stafford, Guildhall
Hemel Hempstead, Marlowes Centre
Coventry, Cathedral Lanes
Tiverton
Luton
Chelmsford, Meadows

The branches at Slough, Maidenhead and Edinburgh East End were three stores already earmarked for closure by the end of the year, which leaves another half dozen stores to be identified. There seems to be some speculation that this move is more in response to cutting high rental overheads rather than  pruning out non-profitable stores. Who knows?

Perhaps one element is when a chain tries to diversify to stay current and competitive it loses some of the spark which make it a high-flyer to begin with. Waterstones, like its HMV sister, doesn't appear to have been run very successfully in the last few years and this seems to be the consequence.
Some people may say that big branch closures will be a good thing for the small independant ... Possibly, as long as the independant managed to stay alive for all this time, but it might just mean that consumers are more likely to go to their local supermarket and buy there.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Latest version anxiety

So. The second version of the screenplay went to a director - someone reasonably important within the BBC and a friend of the producers. Eeek.

A reply email came back quite quickly - frighteningly quickly - with suggestions and comments. A re-write was in order. And quite a big one because the central premise wasn't that well liked.

So a re-write (about 90% owing to the changes needed to accommodate the change) was finished today and sent off to the producer. The biggest problem I had was changing the ending to try and satisfy what I thought the director would be more content with. I'm happy that what I've done with the re-write is still perfectly suitable, and hope that that opinion is continued down the line. Or should that up the line?

Anyway, I still await hearing whether the mid-February meet between producer, director and yours truly will actually happen. On a positive note I did see the producer post a casting call request for the main character today via Shooting People, so hopefully that's a sign that he's still keen to progress this project with me attached.

The upside is still that I've been in the position to write to a (hopefully) high standard three versions of something within a tight deadline. That exercise alone is one that would probably not have happened had I not answered the original script call, and shows me that I can produce when the situation calls for it.

I have the work and I have the experience. Even if it all falls apart now (and that would really SUCK) I've still come out of this ahead.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

'Selling Sweeney' update

Well.

It seems like I should write-to-order more often.

I've just had an email from Scott Barber - the producer who requested the short scripts via Shooting People - to say that he really liked the 'Selling Sweeney' script and thought that this was the one he'd film.

It'll probably have to go through one or two script tweeks - as any screenplay would - and it's very early days but it looks as if I might have my first piece of work filmed in March/April.

Writing to order

I sent a copy of 'Coffee, Biscuits and Bullets' off in response to a script call from a post on Shooting People at the start of the week and got a very positive response from the producer asking for the screenplays. Then I got an email from him asking if I had anything along the lines of 'The Sting'/'Hustle'?

No, I didn't, but I wasn't going to tell him that.

So I wrote a new 11-page screenplay with the general theme of his synopsis in just over a day.

Phew. First time trying to write something to order.

The result is 'Selling Sweeney': a Hustle-type short which I'm quite happy about. The worse case scenario is that I have a new piece of work, and had the experience of writing something new to a (self imposed) deadline.

I sent it over to him earlier today, so just have to wait now to see what he thinks.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

New Story - Spilled Blood

My third story - Spilled Blood has now been posted on the Littlerature website (see the original post about it here). Different to the others, it's a re-working of something I was trying to finsish off for the Fangtales anthology but never got around to it. With the name 'Fangtales' it's not difficult to guess that the stories are vampire related, but I can assure you that my vamp doesn't go all glittery.

Also, whilst I was waiting for the story to be added to their site I adapted it into a screenplay version, just for the hell of it. It's actually a really interesting exercise translating prose into a more visual medium. The 'Spilled Blood' (4 page) screenplay has been added to the list of finished work below.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

New story posted

My second story 'The Yankee Girlfriend' has been posted on the Littlerature website. It's about the interaction between an office worker and one of London's unfortunates. A link has been put direct to the story in the Littlerature section below and right.

Friday, 21 January 2011

New avenue for short stories

I've just started having work listed on the Littlerature website, which hosts stories of exactly 1,064 words. There is a reason for them wanting stories of precisely that length, but you'll have to go there and find out. So far I have one listed - 'How Roger Monks became Portuguese'. It's how an Englishman is accepted into a rural Portuguese community.

I've put a Littlerature section below my bio with a link to the story.

Stories can be voted for - please do, 10s only mind you - and I believe there is an option for purchase onto various e-formats. Please do, as I get a cut of profits.
**Update**
The stories aren't buyable yet. The site owners/organisres are waiting to achieve 'critical mass' before opening that door.

I have a second story 'The Yankee Girlfriend' due to go onto the same site soon, so keep an eye out for that as well. I'll update the link box as and when.