Tuesday, 19 May 2020

THE TROUBLE WITH LINKEDIN




I'm really baffled by young people who are joining LinkedIn right now. I say 'young', because I'm talking about people who have just graduated from university, or college, and have joined LinkedIn in order to start networking and make connections with people who are in the writing and publishing business and begin the long and often frustrating process of getting their careers off the ground.


The trouble is, they don't seem to understand who can help them, or how to cultivate the *right* kind of connections. They don't even seem to want to do much work, but seemingly have it all handed to them.


Every day I'm getting messages from people - more often than not between the ages of 18 - 21 - who've recently graduated and are working on their first novel (*still* working on it I must add, not finished, redrafted and completed and in a condition for publishers and agents to see it, but merely half-way through writing it) or are keen to go into a journalism career writing for film/music magazines, or people who want to write scripts for TV and cinema....


And who keep asking me to give them work.


Let's make this clear - they're not asking me to give them advice or guidance about how they can start making inroads with their careers or how they can advance to the next stage, they're not asking me questions about writing or the writing craft or even wanting me to take a look at their work and give helpful notes, comments and tips...


They're just messaging me asking me to give them work.


I'm even getting the occasional message from random strangers who aren't even connected to me on LinkedIn asking me to give them work.



Lets, for the moment, ignore the rudeness of that and instead concentrate on what's being asked of me...

Every day I'm having to politely and patiently explain that I'm a freelance writer; someone who is, by the very nature of my job, constantly searching for work myself. I'm not a film/TV or audio producer, I'm not a director or a magazine publisher, a script editor or a book publisher.

My bio on my LinkedIn page states that I'm a novelist and scriptwriter - that's all. I'm not in a position to give anyone any work. I'm not quite sure why I'm being confused for anyone who holds one of the positions mentioned above.

The only person so far who hasn't asked me for work instead asked me to help get them published as they were currently part the way through writing their first book. When I told them that my advice is to finish writing the book, then re-write, re-draft and get it to a point where they're happy with it and then and only then should they start approaching contacts and publishers, they didn't seem very happy and told me that other people had advised them to make contacts. I replied that it's 'always a good thing to make contacts, but the most important thing is the book, which needs to be finished first', they thanked me and slinked off.

As one of my writing colleagues on FB quite rightly commented - it seems that a lot of people like the idea of writing a book, but find the actual task of sitting down and getting it written to be intolerable. Again and again on social media we're seeing people who find developing a colourful online persona *as* a writer more important than actually sitting down and writing something. Their feeds are littered with pithy (and stolen) quotes from famous long-dead authors about the writing process, or their artistic frame of mind, or their love of being a writer, while their books and stories remain unfinished and forgotten. We see endless bios which state they're 'Aspiring Writers' - a term I find ludicrous. You are either a writer or you're not. You either write or you don't. You can aspire to be published one day...but if you write then you're a writer and it's absolutely fine to put simply 'Writer' in your bio.

It's really sad because I've now got to a point where I'm seriously considering not accepting any LinkedIn connection requests from anyone who's bios state they've recently graduated university/college or is below the age of mid-20s.



Thursday, 14 May 2020

LOCKDOWN READING.... FILM & TV NOVELISATIONS









When I was a little kid growing up in the late 1970s / early 1980s movie and TV  novelisations were incredibly popular. For those films that weren't based on original novels, the novelisation was a wonderfully lucrative piece of the merchandise trade. In a time before home media, before the rise of the VHS cassette or the widespread ability to record TV shows and films from the TV, the novelisation was on hand for all those who wanted to relive the TV shows and movies that they love again and again. Sometimes the novelisation was released a little ahead of a movie's cinema release and people could actually read the book before they got to see the film.

I was guilty of doing just that on one occasion.

Back in the summer of 1983 I was 9 years old and a huge Star Wars fan. Naturally, being a wee ankle-snapper, I just couldn't wait to see the new film Return of the Jedi, and having spied the novelisation while on a 2 week holiday in Bridlington, I immediately bought the book and sat on the beach while the sun shone overhead and the rest of my family splashed in the sea, built sandcastles and did everything else that a family is supposed to do while on their jolly summer hols, and I sat there quietly and read the novelisation of a film I hadn't seen yet. Nowadays that would be called 'spoilering myself', but I didn't care. After I was finished I was still just as excited about seeing the film, but I was so happy having had the opportunity to experience it in some format and this was enough to hold my excitement in check until we got home and was able to get to the cinema.

Growing up I was surrounded by novelisations. We had, in our living room, a small cupboard we used to call (rather imaginatively) the Book Cupboard. On 3 large shelves, each piled 3 deep, were my mum's collection of horror novels, short story collections, Star Trek books and TV & movie novelisations. Between them my mum and my sister had a large collection of novelisations of the 70s/80s show The Professionals - a collection that they were kind enough to pass on to me, which now sits on my book shelf (see below pic). A few years later (when I was about 12), my Aunty Marg and Uncle Jack bought a small caravan which they kept permanently on a tiny horse shoe shaped campsite in Sewerby, Bridlington. Uncle Jack was a rapacious reader, and on every shelf and every surface of this caravan there were stacks upon stacks of war novels by Jack Higgins, Sven Hassel and Alistair MacLean, Cold War & Spy thrillers by Craig Thomas, Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader - there were also lots of TV novelisations for ITV shows such as Fox, Minder, Auf Wiedershen, Pet and Survivors.









Over the years many of the books that my mum owned were either given away, thrown out in a house move, or misplaced. For the past couple of decades I've been attempting to replace this collection, all those books I grew up reading, cherishing, loving. I am attempting to find them in the original editions that my mum once owned with the same covers. So far I've managed to replace about half of those books, and I'm always on the lookout whenever I go into second hand and rare bookshop or charity shops.

The novelisation isn't completely dead, thanks mostly to Titan Books, and I still collect the new novelisations - their reprints of Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien: Covenant and the 2018 sequel Halloween.









I've been meaning to re-read (and in some cases read for the first time) these wonderful novelisations, and I think that our current situation would be an excellent time to revisit those happier and simpler times. Even in a time when films and TV are available via a variety of home media formats virtually instantly, I still think the novelisation has a place as a legitimate piece of the merchandise trade, and fingers crossed it begins to flourish again like it once did when I was young.















Thursday, 7 May 2020

INCOMING.... JACKIE CHAN'S DRAGONS FOREVER









And the contributor copies keep hitting the doormat, this time an 88 Films' release of the 1988 Hong Kong cinema classic Jackie Chan's Dragons Forever.

This blu-ray release features a brand new booklet notes written by me called The Difficult Third Movie - Dragons Forever: From Pariah to Classic.

Very honoured and very chuffed to have been asked to contribute to this, the fourth Jackie Chan classic blu-ray release I've contributed to...the others being The Protector and Miracles also from 88 Films, and Wheels on Meals which is released by the mighty EUREKA! VIDEOS

You can buy your copy HERE






Monday, 6 April 2020

MY TYPICAL WRITING DAY.... SADIE MILLER














Once upon a time, I used to have writer's block. Not often, but when I did, I made the most of it. I would order three ice coffees, sit in the window of my local cafe and watch the world go by as the words went back and forth and characters drifted in and out if my imagination


Now that I'm a mum of two, writer's block is most definitely a thing of the past. Getting any time to write is a luxury, so I try and make the most of it and do as much as I can when the opportunity presents itself. I think it's important to just try and get the words down on paper sometimes and trust the editing fairies will help me polish them up further down the line. 


My day usually starts at 5am. If I'm awake before the boys, which is rare, I will proofread any waiting articles, check my emails and sometimes write a quick product description or blog post, depending on what I have pending for that week.


My youngest, Valentine, takes a nap around 9am, so then it's back to the laptop in my squashy office - my bed - or sometimes the sofa, along with a peppermint tea, noise cancelling headphones, my foot massager and a snack. This is my article writing window when I need to get my professional cap on.







Most of the day is then spent with my boys. Colouring, games, some co-parenting care of Netflix, outside play in the garden. When they go to bed around 4pm (after a bedtime story always, of course) then more work for me.







I get any unfinished articles out of the way and if a client has a revision request, these always go to the top of the pile. I allow myself an hour to relax and watch something (usually trashy) to switch off and then, around 7pm, it's time for the creative project.









I have a few in the pipeline at the moment. A supernatural horror comedy for kids, a short story to be released as part of the re-release of my book Moon Blink and a cyberpunk adventure novel.

Although writing is challenging, sometimes arduous and involves a degree of focus that many would think tiredness should make prohibitive, I actually find I write best when I'm shattered or running on 10% battery. Writing lets me access another part of my brain that is otherwise dormant and I love even 20 minutes to feel my fingers dance across the keyboard and see the words race across the page (I write very fast, so thank goodness for spell checking software!). Sometimes I don't even realise what I've written until I read it back and it reminds me of getting lost in a scene back in my acting days. I find it calming and exhilarating at the same time but by 8pm, I'm ready for bed. I listen to Steve Allen on LBC until my eyes close and then the day begins again, sometimes with a few wake up calls in the night too to keep me on my toes. 



You can catch up with Sadie on her website HERE

And buy her books HERE










Thursday, 2 April 2020

TYPICAL WRITING DAY.... C.L. RAVEN




MY OUR TYPICAL WRITING DAY!











We often read writers’ accounts of their typical working day and it all sounds so idyllic: they get up early, get to their computer, write a thousand words, and are finished by lunchtime then take the afternoon off to check emails or do nothing. Their office overlooks the sea, their planning board is nearby and their spouse supplies them with hot beverages and peace.

Our cold writing dungeon sits beneath a Willow tree, our peace shattered by cats leaping from the tree onto the roof and frightening us out of a scene. If we take time off, we get anxious and irritable. As for early mornings? Just because we write horror, doesn’t mean we want to inflict it on ourselves. If we got up and went straight to our laptop, our animal army would lynch us. The guinea pigs riot on a daily basis. Our army consists of 1 dog, 5 cats, 2 guinea pigs, 1 rabbit, 1 duck, 1 iguana and 2 corn snakes. Most of them are rescue pets. Two of the cats showed up one day and decided they live with us now. We found the one’s owner and they collect him regularly, but he keeps coming back. As for a spouse bringing us beverages, we’re chronically single and send texts to each other. “Bring me chocolate and Red Bull.” And the reply is “No.”

Our writing day starts with dragging ourselves out of bed (antidepressants have a lot to answer for), feeding the animal army then taking our dog and our friend’s dog out for a walk in woodlands. A lot of writers use that time to plan their novel or think of a solution. We use the time to wake up and pick up litter the public have dropped, while thinking of creative ways to teach them not to harm the environment. Plus, having a Lurcher and a Border Collie means they’re not exactly relaxing strolls. They’re usually accompanied by “what are you eating?” “Get up!” (they love rolling in dead things) “stop barking, it’s just saying hello,” and “you are not a squirrel.”

After we get back from the walk, it’s time for our morning Red Bull and party rings. For those of you who are not from the UK, party rings are hard biscuits covered in icing that are very popular with childrens’ parties and 36 year old twins from Wales. The dogs love them too. The cliché drink of writers is coffee. Ours is Red Bull. Without it, it’s best to avoid us. Canongate in Edinburgh has never recovered from a Red Bull-related meltdown. Whilst we snack, we open our Duolingo apps and try to learn Swedish. We’re going to Sweden on 16th May to do a signing in a bookshop, so we want to be able to speak a bit of Swedish. We’re also learning Italian and German.

Every other day, we clean out the rabbit, duck and guinea pigs’ hutches/shed. We do more Duolingo then let the duck out into the front garden and fill her washing up bowl with warm water. She has two ponds, but her hot tub is her favourite thing. We then clean the house, feed the iguana and finally start work any time between 11:30 and 1 p.m. One day a week we do warrior training, where we pay a personal trainer to torture us for an hour. We do not want the dreaded ‘writer’s bum’.

We write together under a joint pseudonym, so our writing process is a little different. We’ve heard of some writing partners who will take a chapter each, or divide their characters. That sounds so harmonious, so organised. So not how we work. Our process can probably be best described as ‘chaotic’. We don’t plan. At all. So if we’re writing something new, we’ll think of a vague idea, like ‘we want to write a ghost story’ or whatever brief a deadline states. One of us heads out to our writing dungeon armed with a skull print blanket and the laptop. Our dungeon is actually a shed that our best mate turned into a dungeon using fake stone offcuts from a set she was working on. She’s a scenic artist for TV and film. Our dungeon is filled with Halloween decorations, a portable heater, a mummy from another set, and a ginger cat called Theo -- the one who insists he lives with us despite having a home. He has his own chair. The mummy has the other chair.

Whoever goes out first will write a page, setting the tone, voice and idea. Then we switch. The second one will read what’s been written then continue it. We keep doing this until the end of the story. We don’t discuss what will happen next (mostly because we don’t know) and we just see where the story takes us. Shift changes are accompanied by doing flexibility stretches. Sitting at a desk all day is bad for you. Plus we’re trying to get our splits. In between redrafts we’ll whip out our phones and go on Instagram to be inspired by – and fume at – all the poledancers who are better than us. Or when we’re feeling really masochistic, go on Twitter and read all the bragging posts by authors who never seem to get a rejection. Or if they do, they never post about it. We do. We’re goths. Sharing our misery brings joy to our little black hearts.

After a story is finished, we’ll take it in turns in do a full redraft. By the time we’re ready to submit the story or publish the novel, it’s had so many edits that we can’t remember who wrote what. We don’t try to meet a set word count – we don’t need the stress – we write for as long as we have time for. Plus, most of our time is spent editing rather than writing, so setting word counts would be pointless. If we’re editing, we’ll try to finish the story, or chapter, but if we don’t, we don’t stress about it. We’d rather not be late to our polefit class.

People often ask if we ever disagree on which direction the story takes, or if we get annoyed what one of us has done to a character. The answer is no. We have no idea where the story is going until we’re writing it. We don’t divide characters, so we’re not precious over any of them. And as we can’t remember who wrote what part, neither of us gets upset if something gets cut. It doesn’t sound like it should work, but it does. We write novels, short stories, articles, comics and film scripts and it all gets done the same way.

In the afternoon, whoever isn’t on the writing shift will bath the iguana and feed the dogs. We usually shut down the laptop at about 5 or 6 p.m. If we have a free evening, we’ll happily work til 7 or 8 p.m. Our evenings are spent doing gymnastics (which we’re terrible at) polefit (which we love) going round a friend’s house to work on a choose your own adventure game we’ve adapted from our novel, Silent Dawn, or going to friends to play D&D/RPGs/board games. One or two evenings a week we have chip and film night, where we get chips from the chip shop and spend the evening with our mum watching horror films and serial killer documentaries. They’re our favourite evenings. We put the duck and rabbit to bed half an hour before sundown. Our friends are always amused when we message them to say ‘we’ll be round after we’ve put the duck to bed’, but we’ve had ducks for 21 years, so it’s normal for us. We’re also training to become polefit instructors. We really need more hours in the day. We could achieve this by getting up before half eight but we see no need to make ourselves suffer.






Every Friday evening, we host The Graveyard Shift, a horror radio show on Vitalize radio. It’s an online radio station and they let us loose on the unsuspecting public. We cover topics like films, books, serial killers and historical events. Whoever is not on the writing shift is usually researching for the show or sorting out accommodation and booking for cons, checking emails, getting work ready to be submitted and maintaining a social media presence. Or sharing photos of our cats.
At least one weekend a month, we sell our books at comic cons or horror cons. Some months we have a convention every weekend. We end up travelling all over the UK and staying in the cheapest accommodation we can find. It’s usually Travelodge or camping. If a con is three hours or less away, we’ll get up at 4 a.m. and drive up on the morning of the con. It saves money. We write full time. Saving money has become our specialty. Cons are long hours and hard work, but we’ve met so many new readers that we wouldn’t have found by staying at home and posting links online. In terms of profit margins, cons are not good but in terms of building a bigger audience, they’re great. We now have people returning to cons just to buy more books from us. That makes it worthwhile. If we’re not at cons, the weekends are just another writing day or spent teaching a friend polefit to give us practise for our coaching course. If we’re not productive, our depression worsens.

We schedule our work according to deadlines. The shortest deadlines get worked on first. If we have nothing pressing to work on, we may write a novel, edit a novel, or get started on a deadline that’s a month or more away. We edit a few of our friends’ work so will often spend days doing that, or formatting books for other people. Formatting is probably our least favourite aspect of self-publishing because it’s boring and not overly difficult, once you’ve mastered how to stop the document screwing up your page numbers.

Every year we try to visit one new place abroad we’ve never been. So far, we’ve managed Las Vegas, San Francisco, Paris, Venice and Fuengirola. We take our laptop and write travel blogs in the evenings after spending all day exploring. Our holidays are usually a disaster and these result in great travel posts. Most travel writers write about beautiful places and local food. We write about poorly placed air vents exposing Cat in the Louvre and Lynx jumping into the Seine to rescue her phone. It won second prize in a travel writing competition.




Links: 










Thursday, 26 March 2020

FREE DORIAN GRAY SAMPLE CHAPTER









For all those who are now in self-isolation (like me) and are looking for something new to listen to while kicking around the house, you might be interested to know that over on the Big Finish website they're offering a free sample chapter of one of The Lost Confessions audio novelisations Last Man Standing.

It's one of three novelisations I recently wrote for Big Finish's fabulous and popular The Confessions of Dorian Gray series, based on unused audio scripts written by producer/director Scott Handcock, and read by Dorian Gray himself Alexander Vlahos.

Here's the info about the three novelisations (the free chapter is from Last Man Standing)



 
1. Last Man Standing
France, 1915. After being dispatched on a top-secret mission with his comrade, Jonathan Roberts, Captain Gray finds himself lost in the wastes of No Man’s Land searching for a concealed German outpost. As both men venture further from the trenches, they soon discover forces greater than king and country.
 


2. There Are Such Things…
England, 1930. Father Victor Merriman is confused when a bedraggled young man locks him inside his own church on a dark and stormy night. The man claims not to be locking them in, but rather to be locking something out: something that has haunted Dorian Gray for over a year now, ever since the engagement of Milly Lloyd.


 
3. The Last Confession
The Future. Since his experience at the Brigadoon Hotel, Dorian Gray struggles to come to terms with having a soul; and worse, having lost his soulmate. Travelling the world, he hopes to lay some demons to rest… and perhaps even confront the biggest one of all?


 
This download-only release includes a bonus 15-minute interview with Alexander Vlahos and Scott Handcock, the Lost Confessions Music Suite, and an audio commentary for The Confessions of Dorian Gray: The Heart That Lives Alone.





You can download the free Chapter 1 over at the Big Finish website HERE








Tuesday, 24 March 2020

MY TYPICAL WRITING DAY.... IAIN LOWSON






'SHED LIFE'





Quick bit of background, I guess. I’ve been writing professionally for a fraction under 25 years at time of writing this. In that time, I’ve dabbled in journalism, screenwriting, comics, and many other things. I’ve had successes, been ripped off, and done much of the stuff that this career brings all those who sail in her. Most importantly, it’s what I do to pay the bills.

I work from a shed in my garden. It’s a little log cabin, I guess, added to the mortgage when we first moved here and it was clear that there wasn’t an office space in the house. Having that space, that walk to work (a dozen important steps each day), creates a vital separation for me of work and home. It means I can step away to think, to de-stress, or simply to put work away at the end of the day to enjoy family life, hobbies, whatever, without thinking “Ooooh, I could just pop back and do another bunch of words.”

It’s also where I keep my work library and a big pile of plastic tat that makes me smile.

For the past two decades or so, I’ve been writing for Star Wars partwork magazines for Italian publisher DeAgostini’s UK branch. Official Star Wars Fact File (both versions), Starships & Vehicles Collection, Helmets Collection, the award-winning Build The Millennium Falcon, and others. Although I’ve also work now and then in the games industry and on other projects, Star Wars is my main breadwinner, and my bookshelves reflect this.

My work day is defined by my kids, to a greater extent. As a result, it tends to start when I’ve got
back from walking them to school. I do that because it’s fun to chat with them, and because it gets me up, dressed, breakfasted, and ready to go. When you work from home, routine is impossibly important particularly, if you’re at all like me, when self-discipline is occasionally an issue.

I normally watch an episode of something when I get back home, do bits and pieces of housework, and filter out emails and social media things that don’t need dealt with. It gets my brain working, along with tea. Always tea. I aim to be at my desk for 10am, and that’s when admin happens. I’ve recently started directing short film projects, having hit 50 last year and decided to diversify, and the amount of admin those create is beyond belief. I work through that and any research I need to do before lunch, which tends to be around noon.

After lunch, I write. There are occasions when that starts earlier, especially if there’s a lot to do or there’s an urgent job, but I tend to do my best work in the afternoons. Research usually means a scattering of books and comics, fanned out on the floor behind my desk and chair, relevant to what I’m writing. While the internet is useful for Star Wars stuff, it’s by no means reliable. At all. Much better to check the sources and not be bound by what someone else thought was important.

By 4pm, the family start returning from work and school. I tend to keep working until about 5pm, beyond if there’s a big deadline to hit, and finish up with a review of what needs done the following day so it’s in my head. Post-it notes everywhere!




There are days when that routine changes. I have reading days – I need to keep up with the latest books, comics, and so on. That’s not a choice. That has to be done. Same with the latest episodes of work-related shows, or blu-ray releases of films. With the filming work I now do, there are planning days, building days, and editing days, all at my DP/editor/prop builder/lighting guy Slink’s place. There are also shooting days, of course. Within normal days there are meetings and chats over Skype or the phone, plus days when admin just takes over entirely.

I think that about covers it all. Oh, except my being broken.

I’ve been dealing with anxiety and depression since university in the early 1990’s. Another thing that
‘disrupts’ my routine are very essential self-care times. When you’re self-employed, it’s very easy to be utterly consumed by what you do. That’s why having a physical separation from work is utterly vital. For the sake of your life being more than work. You are a better writer if you are a balanced individual with interests and passions outside of the job. I think that’s true of anyone in any job, to be fair.

For me, I have to be aware of my mood, my thoughts. I know when I have to step away for five minutes, or an hour, or even a day just to prevent myself from crumbling. It took me a very long time to give myself permission to take that self-care time. My work would suffer if I didn’t, as would every other aspect of my life. I’m not happy to do that to my family, my clients and myself.

Now then, that really is everything.




Twitter – @EmbraAgain
Facebook - https://m.facebook.com/IainEmbraLowson
Instagram – embraagain 
Blog - http://embraagain.blogspot.com
LinkedIn – C’mon. I’m not doing all the work for you…









Monday, 23 March 2020

TALES FROM THE APOCALYPSE










There's is an old expression, often mistaken to be (though never proven) from ancient China that goes “May you live in interesting times!”.

Well, these aren't so much 'interesting' as downright bizarre.

When I was a little kid I remember the mornings when they used to test the air raid sirens (something that used to scare the hell out of me) in case they ever had to be used. I remember seeing public information films on TV warning us of the dangers of rabies and what we should do if we saw an animal (wild or domestic) in the UK who seemed to be infected. I remember not long after the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th that the government issued to every household a booklet on how the public should act / react in the event of a terrorist attack on the UK (similar in vein to the Protect & Survive booklets in the 1970s).

But nothing like this.

We have a cupboard in our house we call the Isolation Cupboard. Specially emptied for this crisis, we have stocked it with a variety of tinned and packet foods in preparation for the time we have to lock ourselves inside our own house. There's food in the freezer too – specifically bought for the same purpose. Oh, and a 6 pint carton of milk, frozen in preparation. We didn't panic buy these items, but added a few here and there to our weekly food shopping lists, and now, over the weeks, have managed to collect together enough food to feed us during the two week isolation period.

There is a huge, home-made sign that's been erected by the side of the road right on the edge of my town which reads “GO HOME. SAVE LIVES”. So far no one's taking notice of it, they're still coming into the town in droves. On one street in town someone has spray painted on a white wall in big letters: 'SAVE LIVES, STAY AT HOME'.

Last week I called my mum and had to cancel a pre-Easter family get-together as she is over 70 with a heart condition and my dad is over 70 with diabetes. I just can't run the risk of being the one who, unknowingly and unwittingly, brings the virus into their house. She's promised me that she'll text every Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, to keep me updated on their health - so I know they're still there. I'm now probably not going to see them again until June / July, four months from now. My wife's parents live just 5 doors down from us, she's had to stop seeing them too (for the same reasons as my parents). She's told them that occasionally we'll come round and stand a safe distance away at the front gate while they stand at the front door of their house and we can chat for a few mins.

There was a picture on an online news site last week showing a long line of stationary cars all lining up waiting to get into Scarborough. Most of these weren't carrying residence, they were tourists completely ignoring the 'limit your movements' request.

Freinds of mine, who live over 100 miles away, but have a second home here in town and also own a bar and cafe here, have had to close their business for the foreseeable future (they've only owned the bar/cafe for about 5 months, it's only been open since January). They arrived this weekend to empty the kitchen and the rest of the premises of all perishable foods - they even asked us if we could take some of the cake and milk off their hands, the rest they were taking away for family. We won't see them now for several months as they won't be able to travel between homes anymore.

People are standing outside shops in town half an hour before they open so they can get in immediately, while others believe themselves to have some kind of special privileges not afforded to others, simply because they are older. This morning one woman was waiting outside a shop with a product in her hand, with the receipt, telling her husband “Oh, the young man's seen us, he'll let us in.” This 'young man' was actually letting in the (increasingly stressed and overstretched) staff who were arriving to get the shop ready as there was still 25 minutes before the shop opened. I heard the approaching staff sigh and mumble to one other “Oh god, she's back again!!” I told the woman the shop doesn't open until 9am. She replied “Oh, I know, but I'm over 70 so I'm allowed in before everyone else.” Actually, this isn't really true - age doesn't mean you get to go into the shop 30 mins before it opens, being over 70 means (in some stores at least) that you, along with those in poor health or with disabilities, get the first opening hour to shop in isolation before the rest of the public are allowed in. Age doesn't give you the right to make a nuisance of yourself.

My wife is part of these massively put upon and harassed staff. She works in the public health sector and the increasingly selfish and ignorant behaviour of those who aren't even part of the 20% of the country in serious risk from the virus is causing her to come home stressed, unhappy and giving her sleepless nights and anxiety about having to go to work each day and cope with the idiots who are exacerbating this crisis. 

While queuing up waiting to be served in a small local supermarket the other day, I noticed signs that were stuck to the front of every cash-till telling people to observe the 'personal distancing' request and queue one meter apart from the person in front and from the person behind. No one was paying any attention. They were all standing on top of each other, desperate to get to the front of the queue.

The supermarket shelves are, for the most part, bare. When new stock does arrive, it flies off the shelves so fast by late afternoon / early evening it's all gone again. The big supermarket in our town has begun to close early so that its staff are able to clean the store and get the shelves stocked up in time for the madness that begins almost immediately the doors are opened the following day.

I've never seen anything like this. I don't think anyone has in the UK, not since the end of food rationing in the mid-1950s at least.

My parents had planned to isolate themselves from this week and do all their food shopping online. But they've been told there are no delivery slots available. Now they have no choice but  to continue going outside to shop, either that or get someone to do the food shopping for them. An 80 year old of their acquaintance also attempted to shop online for food, but was told they wouldn't be able to deliver until the end of April at the earliest.

I'm not so much worried about Covid-19 as I am about food and supplies running so low in the shops that it becomes almost impossible to get hold of. I'm worried for my parents and for those people it will effect should they continue to be forced to go outside. People are panic buying for no reason and it's causing a huge problem. For the most part, those panic buying aren't in the 'danger category', they're just selfish people who are pushing this country to the brink of chaos just because they don't have the intelligence or humanity to do what's right and decent.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

ANNOUNCED.... 'SCREAMERS' ON 101 FILMS' BLACK LABEL








Delighted to be able to announce that I have written a new piece for the forthcoming blu-ray release of the 1995 cult Sci-Fi horror Screamers. Released on May 4th in a limited edition box set by 101 Films and packed with lots of fabulous extras including a collector's booklet with new essays including one written by me titled When the Machines Rock: Philip K. Dick and the Dystopian Dream.

Here's the details...



Title number 013 in our Black Label range. This Limited Edition version includes a slipcase and a booklet.

101 Films presents Screamers (1995), an action-packed sci-fi thriller starring Peter Weller (Robocop), based on Philip K. Dick’s story Second Variety.

The year is 2078. The man is rebel Alliance Commander Col. Joseph Hendricksson (Weller), assigned to protect the Sirius 6B outpost from ravage and plunder at the hands of the New Economic Bloc. His state-of-the-art weaponry are known as Screamers: manmade killing devices programmed to eliminate all enemy life forms. Screamers travel underground, their intent to kill announced by piercing shrieks. They dissect their victims with sushi precision, then eradicate all traces of the carnage. They are lethal. Effective. Tidy. And somehow, they are mutating – self-replicating into human form – and slaughtering every beating heart on the planet.

Brand New Extras

  • Commentary with film critic Kevin Lyons
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes In Space, No One Cares if You Scream by Liam Hathaway and When the Machines Rock: Philip K. Dick and the Dystopian Dream by Scott Harrison

Additional Extras

  • Northern Frights – An interview with director Christian Duguay
  • Orchestrating The Future – An interview with producer Tom Berry
  • More Screamer Than Human – An interview with co-writer Miguel Tejada-Flores
  • From Runaway To Space – An interview with actress Jennifer Rubin
  • Theatrical Trailer

    Specifications

    • Certificate: 18
    • Runtime: 108' 22" (feature) 77' 04" (extras)
    • Aspect ratio: 16:9 (1.78:1)
    • Region: B
    • Sound: Stereo PCM
    • Language: English
    • Subtitles: English HOH



    You can pre-order from the 101 Films website HERE





    Wednesday, 18 March 2020

    MORE REVIEWS.... LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT





    There's been more great reviews dropping online for Eureka! Video's latest blu-ray release Long Day's Journey into Night including one appearing on probably my favourite blu-ray reference/review site - Bluray.com - which goes into detail regarding the release's extras and says some nice things regarding my audio commentary...


    "Commentary - in this new audio commentary, author and critic Scott Harrison shares plenty of information about Eugene O'Neill's play and its history, Sidney Lumet's cinematic adaptation of the play. and how key themes are transferred and treated in the film. The commentary was recorded exclusively for Eureka Entertainment."



    "Eureka Entertainment's release of Long Day's Journey Into Night is sourced from an older but pleasing organic master and features a good exclusive new audio commentary by author and critic Scott Harrison."




    You can read the whole review over on their website HERE






    Tuesday, 17 March 2020

    MY TYPICAL WRITING DAY.... JESSICA MARTIN





    My name is Jessica Martin and I am a professional actress and published writer and illustrator of comics and graphic novels. Scott very kindly invited me to share my insights and my routine for capturing the muse back in summer of 2019. It wasn’t that I was procrastinating but at the time that he asked me, I was on the brink of having my graphic memoir “Life Drawing. A Life Under Lights” published and subsequently there were various talks, conventions and even a cabaret to promote the book, in the pipeline. And now, here we are in March 2020 and I’ve just finished the run of a musical in London which I wasn’t expecting. I tell you all of this pre-amble because I am struck by the irony of how I first got into writing because I was at a stage in my career where the “resting’ interludes of an actors’ life were longer than the ‘employed’ ones. “ Creativity breeds creativity” so the saying goes.

    Even though I would have denied this notion a few years ago ( in my self-loathing acting period), I now realise that actors are themselves creatives. Although our primary job is to be a cipher for the ideas of a playwright, it is the individual actors’ emotional experience and perspective that informs the dramatic choices and nuances that will be employed in the final interpretation. The fact that there are thousands of actors who have delighted us with “Hamlet” throughout history, endorses that fact. So it goes without saying that an actor may be full of ideas even if he only gets to express them when he is ‘employed’. In fact the notion of a ‘resting’ actor is laughable. We are always restless! Some of us let off steam through gossip, schadenfraude, oversharing on social media or boldly going to the place where we can be masters of our own destiny…the writer’s chair. And then we find out that our play, screenplay or treatment has to climb the ‘greasy pole’ the same way that actors do. However, the writing wins over the idle chatter in that we have set the elusive words onto paper or screen. There is the satisfaction of somehow creating something lasting.

    The full backstory of how I came into the field of writing and illustrating is there in my graphic memoir ( shameless plug!!). Suffice to say, I had a eureka moment when I found out that my rediscovered passion for drawing could be put to narrative use in the form of comics. Actually, it was Phill Jupitus who pointed me in that direction when we did a production of “Spamalot” together. I had written a screenplay and a play before that so I had an idea of how to create a dramatic arc for a storyline. When I discovered that comics were an easier medium to get published in because there was a growing movement for small press independent works, I was all in.
    So now I knew the medium I was going to make comics, what genre was I going to choose for my storytelling? I started off with slice of life comic strips which I published on my website, called “Wishful Inking”. Hardly the stuff of superheroes, it was more about juggling family life with my burgeoning creativity. Actually there was a superhero in it..my late mother. In one of the stories I depicted how she and her partner did a complete makeover on the study in our house whilst we were away on a family holiday. When we came home I was amazed to find I had a writing and art den totally customised, from which I am writing this piece! This meant that I also had that all important “writer’s chair”, the one from which Stephen King says you should never shift from until you have put words on the page.







    My main inspiration as far as subject matter goes, is the golden age of Hollywood. I got my idea for my first graphic novel, “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” whilst reading a biography on Alfred Hitchcock. I was fascinated by the influence of Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Reville who had taught him everything he needed to know about film-making when he started off as lowly sign painter for the caption frames on silent films. In my mind, the story of a young girl who works her way up through the film industry started to take hold of my imagination.

    I remember writing little squares in a notebook and writing the ideas for a particular scene within them. I later graduated to the traditional use of index cards which I pinned up on the notice board in my office for the layout of the story. Whilst pursuing the idea of a long form graphic novel, I also decided it might be wise to write something in the same genre in a shorter form. By this time, I had made the acquaintance of a top comics illustrator called Mark Buckingham whose work for Vertigo’s “Fables” I much admired. He invited to write a one page comic strip which he would illustrate for an upcoming comics anthology. That was a very informative exercise. It was almost like writing a joke in that there was a set up, a play-out and a punchline. It was challenging because we had the constraints being confined to twelve panels. I made three attempts at the script but it came out well. Mark invited me to share his table at the Thought Bubble Comic Con and that gave me the perfect ‘marketplace’ to test out my short comic.

    The inspiration for my twelve page comic, “It Girl” was, like “Elsie Harris Picture Palace” almost whilst I was doing something else; in this case, watching a documentary about silent movie actress Clara Bow. I was so moved by the programme that I instantly decided hers was a story worthy of capturing in a comic. I did a lot of research, including reading a whole biography about Clara Bow before moving to the story that I wanted to tell. Research is something that I enjoy but am fully aware that it may eventually become something that sits in the background of your own mind but doesn’t dictate the final story. My story of Elsie Harris was fiction but set in a real time in history and I did a lot of research into the way that art departments worked in English and Hollywood studios of the Thirties. I could have written whole books on some of the sub characters but knowing I had a page count of 152, that was not going to happen. Certainly not when I had pictures to draw as well.

    The process for creating the Clara Bow comic has effectively become the blueprint for all my comic and graphic work since. Having done my research, I then did some mind-mapping of all the elements that I wanted to include in the story. I did my little word version of the sequential narrative ( boxes with the details of what was going to happen in each picture.) From that I created my script whereby the action was effectively a description of what happens in each panel and the dialogue was what would be in the speech bubbles plus narrative for the narration boxes.







    When eventually I got to work on “Elsie”, I actually used Final Draft to create a full script for the entire book but broken up into pages instead of scenes. Where possible, I tried to have a shift in action or plot at the end of each page. And then I would move into the equivalent of index cards in drawing form which was to do a thumbnail layout of each page.

    With both “Elsie” and my other long form work, the graphic memoir, I had to make some sacrifices in other parts of my life. With deadlines in front of me, social engagements were a rare treat and with “Life Drawing. A Life Under Lights”, I even turned down some auditions that might have materialised into juicy roles. By this time in my life, however, I have developed some resistance to the mirage effect showbiz can have on the impressionable mind. In working on my own projects, I was betting on myself and if nothing else, it strengthens your resolve. Now I had made my book a mission. I got up early every day and set a desktop calendar with goals set for every day. I never met these goals precisely but they certainly kept me on track.






    In the writing of “Life Drawing”, I was drawing on my own life experience but it still required in depth research. Fot instance, my late father was a jazz musician at a number of nightclubs in Soho in the fifties and it was almost impossible to source images of the original venues. I had the added luxury of our newly built garden annex to go to and immerse myself in the writing.. See picture here.






    Being somewhat fond of apps that could sprinkle fairy dust on your work, I also made friends with Scrivener ( I’m using it here) which has a handy corkboard function where to can type up your index cards and view them in tandem with whatever you’re writing.







    ( Not my own index cards but a dummy sample from Scrivener. Can’t be giving away all my secrets, eh?)

    It also has a word count and I see here that I may have transgressed the reader’s welcome. So I’m going to sign off. Before I do though, I just wanted to add that if you ever feel stuck and need something to whet your appetite for writing, I can highly recommend Stephen King’s “On Writing”, Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic”.

    Thank you. Now go forth and create!!

    PS. My book “Life Drawing. A Life Under Lights” is available direct from these links -  UnboundBooks and Amazon and Waterstones websites.


    You can find Jessica at any of the following...

    Twitter: @jessica7martin
    Instagram: jessica_artymiss





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