Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Thirteen Horror Anthology - CD Release

It was announced recently that the splendid chaps at Fantom Films had released the portmanteau horror anthology, Thirteen, as a shiny CD box set. Something we’d always eventually intended, right from the beginning.

This got me idly thinking about the anthology – remembering it’s creation and working with the writers, etc, etc…and then it suddenly hit me.

Has it really been 3 years since Thirteen was released?

Shockingly, the answer is yes!

Actually, I’ve just checked my emails and it’s nearer 3 and a half years (it was August 2013 when that little beauty was originally released into the world as a downloadable album.)

I remember the moment I had the idea for the anthology – it was December 2010, about a week before Christmas, and I was living in a small village out on the edge of the moors. It had been snowing heavily for a day or two and there was about two foot of snow on the ground. Naturally my wife couldn’t get into work with the car, so we had to pull on our Wellington boots and walk down to the train station at the bottom end of the village.

The journey into town was only 25 minutes or so, but if the track had been covered in snow then they tended to be a little overly cautious, sometimes not even allowing passenger on until they made the journey into town once, just to check that the rails weren’t blocked or impassable. Thankfully that morning they were allowing people on board the train, so my wife got on and I began to make my slow, careful way back up the hill through the deep snow towards our house.

The sky was just starting to get properly light, and there was no one about but me - the only sound was the twittering of the birds in the trees and the steady crunch crunch crunch of my wellies in the snow.

All of a sudden I heard someone speak. Not out loud and not with my ears, but inside my head, loud and clear, I heard the voice of a man. The words were a confession, a confession of guilt. The voice was neither contrite nor boastful, but simply speaking the truth. It said…

“My name is Hamilton James Macauley and I am a murderer!”

Then, in my mind’s eye, I saw the image of this man, tall and lean and dressed in an old fashioned suit. He was standing in a shop surrounded on all sides by piles of books, boxes of records, magazines, antiquated machinery…

By the time I got home 15 minutes later I had the basic idea for a portmanteau horror anthology, with Macauley’s story as the framing device for the rest of the stories in the anthology.

Our house was an old fisherman’s cottage (at least 150 years old) and the porous brickwork had started to let the cold and the damp seep in, especially when there was a howling northerly wind coming in over the moors, so it was a bit of a devil to heat in the Winter months. As a result I’d taken to carrying my laptop downstairs into the large kitchen/dining room and setting up a work-space on the dining table – there were two large radiators and an oil fire in there, so it was always nice and toasty.

So, the moment I got home I struggled out of my big coat, scarf, gloves, jumper and wellies, sat down at the dining room table and immediately got in contact with Neil Gardner, pitching him my audio anthology idea. We’d been looking for a project to work on together for a while, and Thirteen seemed like the ideal one.

I’m still enormously proud of Thirteen – it remains one of my favourite pieces of work, and I still listen to it from time to time. It even went on to win an Audie Award for Best Original Work in 2014!

At the time I became incredibly fascinated by the characters of Hamilton James Macauley and the old shopkeeper, Fleetwood. So much so that I even began to make notes on a back-story for each of the characters, just in case I ever decided to revisit them in a later project.

I started thinking…what if they’d actually met before, under different circumstances, only Macauley didn’t know it, or even remember?

I still haven’t given up on that idea. Who knows, perhaps we will see them again in the not too distant future.

Thirteen is now available as a 3-CD set and can be ordered HERE at the Fantom Films website.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Christmas Update - The Boxing Day Dip Charity Plunge!

Along with a hundred or so other brave loonies this Christmas, I'll be running headlong into the freezing waters, all in the name of charity!!

Yes, as the excitement and madness of the festive season hits us, I've taken leave of my senses and decided to take part in the annual Boxing Day Dip. Which means, on the 26th of December, in the very depths of Winter, I'll be climbing into my swimming shorts and running like a lunatic into the cold, cold ocean.

But it's all in the name of charity!! I'll be raising money for the RSPCA.

So please sponsor me a little something, doesn't have to be much, just 50p or a £1 - it all adds up! Just click on the link below and it'll take you to my official Just Giving sponsor page.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Star Trek 50th Anniversary - Outside In Boldly Goes

Word has it that the new Star Trek book, Outside In Boldly Goes, for which I've written a piece, has finally been released!

The book, which celebrates the original TV series' 50th Anniversary and contains over 100 essays covering all TV episodes and movies featuring the original crew of the Starship Enterprise, is available to buy through ATB Publishing HERE, with 5% of full retail price of the book going to the AIDS charity Avert.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Anthology Update - Guest Post by Sadie Miller

Over the coming weeks and months, in the run up to the publication of the anthologies Lost Tales and Frontier Worlds, I will be inviting all the writers who have contributed a brand new story to each of the books to write a Guest Post here on my blog in which I will ask them to throw back the curtain and reveal to us their private writing world: seeing what exactly makes them tick as a writer, and asking them questions such as what inspired them growing up, and what they enjoy about other writers' works!

I've invited my friend and co-writer Sadie Miller, who has written a story for both anthologies, to kick things off...

Growing up, reading was always a big part of my life. My parents would read to me often and even my colouring paper was on the back of their old scripts so words were everywhere. It wasn't long before I started writing my own stories as my imagination spilled over. My first proper story was about a girl living with lions but I also wrote adventures about a trio of unlikely friend’s; Worm, Sausage and Spider.

In many ways, I find the idea of writing for a job a tough concept to come to terms with. Most of it is about commercial appeal and viability. I recently had a novel rejected because despite a positive reception, it wasn't deemed to be ‘commercial’ enough. I feel art in all forms should have a broad audience as there is something out there for everyone and closing that off seems to go against what I believe in. Or it could be sour grapes, however one chooses to see it. 

I think I was influence by a lot of the great writers for children which many of my generation would also agree with. I loved Enid Blyton, particularly Naughty Amelia Jane, St. Clare’s and Malory Towers along with E Nesbit’s Five Children and It and
Richmal Crompton’s Just William series. I also remember enjoying Anne of Green Gables and daydreaming about one day being just like Jo from Little Women. As I got older, I discovered a love of darker novels and late childhood going into my teens I was obsessed with the books of Robin Jarvis, especially the Deptford Mice trilogy. I remember them frightening me in a way that felt incredibly real. The most beloved characters would die without warning and there was a spine-chilling darkness to them that didn't patronise, particularly when it came to death, which I think is important, especially in children’s literature. Having written this blog post, I am inspired to re-read them again now as an adult to see if they still affect me in that same way. There were nights where I couldn't sleep because my mind was still processing his complex, imaginary worlds. 

I think my parent’s creativity is also a huge part of my love of storytelling and I recall watching The Nightmare before Christmas in Chicago with my dad one afternoon whilst my mum was doing a convention. Even though the people in the cinema behind us were talking all the way through, I was captivated by the world unfolding in front of my eyes. It was strange and wonderful and further ignited a passion in me for dark, twisted tales which manage to blend together elegant story telling with irreverence and gothic charm.  

I studied English at University and there I was introduced to Old English literature. I really enjoyed Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales delighted me with their sauciness and hilariously accurate reflection of human nature. I also had the opportunity to delve further into the plays and mythology of Greek and Roman legends which blend family sagas, romantic drama and unflinching violence. It was here too that I found more cinematic influences; John Ford, Fellini and Billy Wilder, all fantastic storytellers in very individual ways.  

People often ask a writer to name their favourite book and I have to admit I don't have one - I have several! Carter Beats the Devil, Our Man in Beijing, Gone with the Wind and Jurassic Park are definitely my current top few. Scarlett O’Hara has endured as
one of the greatest female heroines of all time but in many ways, she is an anti-heroine. Margaret Mitchell writes women as they are - jealous, vain and often more into the idea of something than the reality of it! Her relationship with Ashley is complex and fascinating, as relevant today as it ever was. I think it just goes to show that human nature has changed very little in the generations that have passed and it is such stories that join our past and future selves together. 

However, as for the biggest influence on my work, I would have name Federico Garcia Lorca. His writing is unflinching in its beauty and emotional integrity. He writes that he was not afraid to be born and therefore why should he be afraid to die? I find this statement alone to be amazing in the way that it simply sums up how we should live to gain the most out of our human experience. He has taught me so much about life and that seizing the moment is vital - don't wait, just write! Most importantly, his gypsy poetry introduced me to the concept of ‘el duende'. There is no English word equivalent, but the meaning behind el duende is 'the ghost between words,' the emotion that inhabits the spaces in language that gives it meaning and vibrancy. I remember reading Bodas de Sangre as a teenager and for the first time being able to taste the words in my mouth. He is a wonderful writer who died bravely and I encourage you if you haven't already to seek out his work and devour it! Although I would say I studied him in Spanish to begin with, and have since enjoyed reading foreign writers in editions where there is the original and translation side by side, as a translator can often manipulate the work which detracts from the source material. 

Drama school brought me back to writing. I recall an assignment where we had to write a short story to perform. Afterwards, I sent it out and was very chuffed when it
got published by an online journal. It was about a group of boys looking to make extra cash so they gate crash funerals where old ladies take pity on them. It isn't particularly good, in fact it's a bit morbid noting what was happening at the time with my mum, who had asked me not to tell anyone about her illness. Perhaps that was my way of letting it all out. She always enjoyed my writing, and often I write for her, imagining I can connect with her again through my keyboard. 

Reading is my escapism and writing is my home base. Things haven't changed that much since becoming a mother, except perhaps better time management and less time spent procrastinating - if anything, I would say it has helped! 

As a writer, I have undeniably been influenced by a huge library of others and it is my greatest wish that something I write might touch someone else and make them see the world through a pair of ‘Sadie Specs’, even just for a moment. Telling stories is a vital part of human nature and we should cherish any opportunity we have to pass a tale or two on to others.

Sadie is currently co-writing a science fiction novel called Scavengers with Scott Harrison.

Her latest novel, Moon Blink, was published in April this year and is the 5th book in Candy Jar Books's Lethbridge-Stewart novel range - a spin-off of Doctor Who.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Anthology News - Frontier Worlds Writers Revealed

So, all stories for the forthcoming Sci-Fi Anthology Frontier Worlds are now in, and editing work begins in earnest.

There will be twelve stories in all, all set six hundred years in our future, when humanity has spread itself out across planets in the darkest reaches of Terran space.

The writers will be:

Tanith Lee
Ken MacLeod
Philip Palmer
Michael Cobley
Eric Brown
Storm Constantine
Adrian Tchiakovsky
Jacqueline Rayner
Justin Richards
Gav Thorpe
Sadie Miller
Scott Harrison

The anthology will be published in 2017 - first in a hardback edition, followed later by a paperback run.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Star Trek: Shadow of the Machine - Deleted Chapter

Every writer will tell you that writing a book is a long, slow, and sometimes painful, business. The ground is never solid, the foundations are always shifting, and the book that hits the bookshop shelves can sometimes be a slightly different beast from the one you had initial envisioned - especially when the dreaded editor gets involved.

You see, things often change between the first and second draft - often between other drafts, too - but not quite as dramatically or (at times) extensively as after you've delivered that first draft. Sometimes it's only minor changes, like the odd sentence changed here, the odd paragraph cut there, but sometimes it can be a biggy - like a whole chapter being removed.

It can also be the other way round - things being added, expanded upon between drafts, 

Take, for example, a script I delivered only the other day - the page count for the first draft stood at 47 pages, and even when I attached it to the email and clicked 'send', I knew that things were missing, that certain important elements still needed to be added. When I attached the redrafted script to the email a day or two later and clicked 'send' the page count now stood at 59 pages and two new scenes had been added, one introducing a character who will become enormously important to the story that unfolds in the following two episodes.

Sometimes the things you cut are obvious - they either slow down the pace of the book, or take the story off at a strange tangent, or just don't sit right in the story as a whole. More often than not, passages cut from a book are at the request of one of the people - either the editor or the author - seldom are they fully agreed upon by both.

The below chapter - taken from the first draft of my Star Trek book Shadow of the Machine - was cut between the first and second draft as it was thought that the device that the young James Kirk was using was a little too similar to a modern day iPad and therefore might be a bit ditracting. I was sad to see it go originally, believing that it added a vital aspect to the character of Kirk and explained some of the later actions and dialogue with his nephew Peter near the end of the book. But, upon reflection now, I think it was probably the right choice.

This chapter originally followed the scene where Kirk, Peter, Hanna and Abner, all sitting down to dinner, begin to argue and Peter storms out.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Update - Anthologies, Audio Plays and Novels

Things have been a bit hectic here lately as I have several writing projects in various stages of development (I'm a bit like those plate spinners on the old variety shows).

Both anthologies are coming along nicely. There are some fantastic stories coming in, and editing work has finally begun on Lost Tales. Can't wait for you to read it (but you'll have to wait until November!). In a couple of weeks I will also begin editing work on Frontier Worlds.

I've been busy writing the scripts for a 3-part supernatural/horror
audio mini-series, which is in the early stages of pre-production. Episode 1 has been delivered, and work has now begun on the script for Episode 2. I should hopefully have more news on this very soon!

I'm also about to start work on two novels for two separate publishers - one is for a TV tie-in franchise, the other is an original novel. Very excited to be working on both of them - but they won't be published until late 2017, so it may be a while before I can give any further details on them.

And, to round things off, I'm also working on a couple of short stories.

To top it off, I realised at the weekend that I'm off on holiday for 10 days in September, so I only have about 5 weeks to get things done before it all suddenly grinds to a halt!

I'd better get on with it then!