Thursday, January 26, 2006

The one year itch

This blog is one year old. (Actually the birthday was yesterday, but I wasn't paying attention. Shame on me. Happy birthday blog.) To be honest, I never thought I'd get this far. I started out all wide-eyed and full of ideals. I was joining the blogging revolution and I was going to take the world by storm. Then after you start blogging you quickly come to realise that you have to find interesting things to say now and then, and the fact you can't think of any leads you to reflect on the sad, uninteresting state of your life. Eventually you get sick of this and you kill off the blog, only to meekly resurrect it again when the blogging itch comes. Because that's all it is, really. It's an itch. You think "Hey - I'll blog about that", and then you go ahead and blog about it. You could always just talk about it with someone, but you get no answering back on the blog. Or, if you do, you can just ignore it.

Yay for blogging.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On the Radio

Hey, I've got a radio spot on KING OF THE ROAD publication day. Tune into BBC Hereford & Worcester at about 2:30 on Feb 7th, and you'll hear me waxing philosophical with Tony Fisher. What do you mean, you're not in the BBC H&W region? You mean there are people outside? Oh, OK. Well you outsiders can check the interview (at the aforementioned time) by clicking here.

It's just logs

Unintentionally sexual comic book covers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chitty Chitty NO!

As you can imagine from the title, I hate the film CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. I don't care if the "child catcher" scene is one of the scariest in cinema history - I ain't gonna wade through an hour of this shit to get to it. Just typing the name makes me want to go kick a few headlights in.

And do you know what? I've never really understood why. It's not like I have a raging hatred of all children's films. I'll quite happily sit there with my kids and watch MARY POPPINS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, DUMBO, and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, for example. But CHITTY... ah, I can't even bring my fingers to type the name of that four-fendered motherfucker.

But this weekend, as I set my teeth ready for another burst of my daughter's "BEST OF DISNEY" CD, I realised why. It's all down to a couple of lines in the eponymous song:

It's more than spectacular
To use the vernacular
It's wizard, it's smashing, it's keen
You will notice a certain word in bold there. And really that's what it all boils down to. I mean, vernacular? Fucking vernacular? According to the OED, vernacular is "the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people of a country or region". OK OK, fair enough. But...




"Smashing" I can forgive, but since when did the "ordinary people" of ANY region say things like "hey, check out that motor over there. It's fucking wizard". Or "I robbed a Sierra Cosworth yesterday. It was well keen, I tells ya." And don't come at me with all that "different eras, different vernaculars" bollocks. No self-respecting "ordinary people" have EVER used wizard adjectivally. And I don't care what century it is, NO ONE describes an object as... as... (go on Charlie, you can do it. Just type it slow, one letter at a time) k... kkk........ KEEN.

No one, that is, except the kind of smug, smackworthy and PIG IGNORANT public school brats that Harry Potter is modelled on.



Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chavs and Lager

Well, thanks for all your book launch suggestions, guys. Looks like I'll have them queuing up around the block. Really, I don't know what I'd do without you. Sheesh.

Anyway, I was startled to find out that if you plug the phrase "chav lit" into google, you only get one result: the page for FAGS AND LAGER. So not only have I been cast into a highly dubious genre, but I am the ONLY exponent of it.

I guess I ought to be happy. I'm a pioneer. I've got to the top of the mountain and there's no one else around me. But, er, it's the wrong fucking mountain.

"Because it's there" - Sir Edmund Hilary.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Everyone who reads this blog is invited to the launch of KING OF THE ROAD on Thursday 9th Feb at Ottakars in Worcester (6:30-8:30). There will be wine and nibbles and guaranteed swearing. I realise this is a futile gesture because none of you live anywhere near Worcester. To the best of my knowledge, no one from my home town reads this blog. That is absolutely fine by me. Hey, this blog has an international readership, man. You might look a bit scuzzy, but you guys are out there in the world.

However, I wouldn't mind a few local punters (and not just people I know) coming along to this launch. (Shit, I wouldn't mind a few local punters just being aware of the books, but never mind that.) Local press will be covered by Lisa the fabulous publicist at Serpent's Tail, but I suspect something more than that is required. To that end, I'm trying to think of how I can make it happen. Here are the options as I see them:

1. sandwich board
2. flyers in key places (pubs)
3. floating an airship over Worcester
4. a publicity stunt
5. magic
6. just going around, shouting at people
7. streaking at Worcester City Football Club
8. streaking at Worcester Warriors Rugby Club
9. offering people money

I'm leaning towards 5. My 3-year old son has a real magic wand and he says he can do anything with it. However, clever though he is, I'm not convinced.

Anyone got any other ideas, drop them here or email me.

And remember - you are invited.

Friday, January 13, 2006

All Together Now

They arrived in the post this morning. (The KING OF THE ROADs, not the dogs.) First thing I did after ripping open the package was go and grab the siblings (DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER) and introduce them. Luckily the family resemblance is strong and they accepted him straight away. So there you have it. A fucking trilogy, man! Now I can sit at the table of trilogists in the sky, alongside Mervyn Peake, Krzysztof Kieslowski (eat your heart out Swiercynski), and Sophocles. They might not talk to me, but I can still sit there.

Note the bottled golden substance in the background. This will come into play later, I can tell you. Ah, fuck it - let's have another picture:

* Note the deliberate ommission of Tolkien. Although initially published in three volumes, The Lord of the Rings is actually a single work**.

** This may not actually be true. I found it on wikipedia.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pity the poor comics writer

One of my writing ambitions is to write stuff in one draft. I don't just mean write the first draft and then send it off whatever state it's in, but to write something in one draft and know it's right. I'm not a big reviser anyway. My usual way of things is to write the first draft, changing stuff as I go along. Then phase two is to address the list of things to change that I just couldn't face during the first draft stage. Then (phase three) I print the thing off and read it through, changing it as I go along. Then I type the changes in and print again for another read through, perfecting it.

So that's a minimum of four stages before it's even seen an editor. That sounds like a lot of work, but I know a lot of folks who do many more passes through the MS than that. Still, it's a long way from achieving my ambition. And do you know what? I know I'll never achieve it. Stuff just doesn't come out that way for me. It comes out in dribs and drabs. I go down one path and see a side road and go "Hmm, what's down there?" Half the time I don't even know I'm doing it. The hard (but not impossible, oh no) bit is being able to stand back and make sure you're on a path to something and not just reeling around the fountain. And I'm aware that this is the reason people do outlines before setting out on the first draft - so they have a map.

But I ain't doing outlines.

I just ain't doing them.

You might disagree, but to me outlines are a killer of ideas. I take a year to pump out a novel (including "recovery time"), and during that year a lot of stuff comes into my head. If you write an outline and stick to it, you're only using the stuff that occurs to you at the outline stage. Me, I like to roll the stone down the hill and see what kind of moss it picks up. This does not preclude structure and plotting. Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I consider that all my novels are well structured and plotted (and mossed). But I do it as I go along. You can't build a house this way, but you can build a novel.

Anyway, I started thinking about this stuff last night after I read this bit from an interview with the great Alan Moore. Makes me shudder:

"Everything you've ever read of mine is first-draft. This is one of the peculiarities of the comics field. By the time you're working on chapter three of your masterwork, chapter one is already in print. You can't go back and suddenly decide to make this character a woman, or have this one fall out of a window. It's got to be pretty much right the first time. So to me, rewriting is a harrowing process. I just don't do it."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My intake...

...of creative stuff varies drastically, according to where I am in my current writing project. I could just say my reading varies, but I tend to group prose, films, comics, and music together as the aforementioned "stuff" - it all has the potential to affect my head in some way... spark and idea, get me in a particular mood, suggest an avenue. It also gets my dreams moving, which is something I consider of great importance. (Talking of which, my son (just short of 4 years old) woke up yesterday (literally as I stood over him, wondering when the hell he's going to wake up) and said, rubbing his eyes, "I was in the animal hospital". This is a boy who says he never dreams. To him, it's not a dream. The little guy was in this animal hospital place for real.)

Anyway, just now I've been looking at graphic novels - another SIN CITY (Family Values - slight compared to That Yellow Bastard and Hard Goodbye), and Book 2 of Alan Moore's PROMETHEA. Jesus Christ, is this a piece of work or what. You know, if I was in a more embryonic stage of my novel-in-progress I might toss PROMETHEA aside as self-indulgent twaddle. I'd be wrong (and consciously so), but it wouldn't be what I need at that point in the novel writing cycle, stuff-wise. What I need at that point is linear prose, books that clearly and (hopefully) cleverly lead from one thing to another, building something nice and substantial. (Don't get me wrong here. I ain't no plagiarist. I just need to see that it can be done. I need to see examples, reacquaint myself with the craft.)

But the stage I'm at now (you might call it the climax), I need something else. I need something that stretches my brain into odd new shapes and deposits new ideas for consideration. I'm not sure why this is so. You'd think that kind of stuff is of best use when you're between books - the gestation period. But hey - what do I know. I just write the shit down. Mine is not to question from whence the shit comes.

Anyway, PROMETHEA... I've been thinking for a while now that Alan Moore is the most vital writer out there. And you know what? He lives and writes in the unassuming provincial town of Northampton... which is where my day job is. I'm sitting here typing this before hitting the road homeward, he's just a couple of miles away literally putting magic on a page. (Or maybe he's putting some bangers under the grill. Or dropping magic mushrooms.) One day I'll bump into him. (I'm not likely to miss the fella.)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Good and Bad

Bad news: My PC crashed and I lost 600 words last night.
Good news: I coaxed it back into life and wrote another 1000.
Bad news: I'm never going to finish this novel.
Good news: But it's the best novel I've ever written.
Bad news: It's not the best novel I've ever written.
Good news: But I'll probably finish it, to be honest.
Bad news: What will you do after that?
Good news: Another novel. The best one I've ever...
Bad news: What about those short story "commissions" queueing up?
Good news: OK I'll do those instead.
Bad news: But you can't write shorts anymore. Admit it. This is why you haven't written one in over four years.
Good news: All I can do is try. The greatest works of art would never have been created if no one ever tried.
Bad news: But they were created by talented, driven people. Not lazy morons like you who don't save their documents.
Good news: Hmm... Hey! I bought three new DVDs yesterday.
Bad news: Oh yeah? What?
Good news: The Dead Zone (Cronenberg), Made In Britain (Tim Roth), and The Warriors.
Bad news: The Warriors?
Good news: Yeah, it's--
Bad news: The fucking Warriors?
Good news: What?
Bad news: You were just talking about great works of art, and talented, driven people.
Good news: So?
Bad news: The Warriors is not a great work of art.
Good news: I never said it was.
Bad news: So what did you buy it for?
Good news: I dunno. I saw it and I bought it. I watched it maybe twenty years ago, when--
Bad news: Old man.
Good news: What?
Bad news: Old man. Fogey.
Good news: Ah, fuck off. How old are you?
Bad news: Me? I'm 22. Jealous?
Good news: How come you're 22?
Bad news: I'm the self doubt and pessimism that settled into your psyche about 22 years ago. OK?
Good news: Fair enough. Can you fuck off for a while? I want to do a bit of writing.
Bad news: What will you give me if I do?
Good news: My soul.
Bad news: Your soul? Really? I can have your soul?
Good news: Yeah. My mortal soul.
Bad news: Wow, the mortal one? How are you going to deliver that to me?
Good news: Well...
Bad news: In a plastic bag?
Good news: No, I--
Bad news: A casket?
Good news: Just shut up a minute. I'll give you these books I've written. And the manuscript I've nearly fin--
Bad news: Crap.
Good news: What?
Bad news: Crap. That's not your soul.
Good news: Yeah it is. I put my soul into these novels.
Bad news: What a pompous wanker.
Good news: What the fuck would you know? You're only 22.
Bad news: I know more than you. I haven't spent my life dreaming, like you have.
Good news: Nothing wrong with dreaming.
Bad news: Yeah there is. Dreaming gets nothing done. Doing gets stuff done.
Good news: But dreaming got me three books. Plus the one I'm writing now.
Bad news: The one that you're never going to finish.
Good news: I will.
Bad news: You won't, remember? I said that before and you said "But it's the best novel I've ever written."
Good news: It is. And I'll finish it. And then I'll watch The Warriors. And you, dear reader... Why are doing reading this shit? Get off your ass and create some great works of art, man.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Bogey Man

A report on the local news this morning brought back to me an event that overshadowed my childhood, as I grew up in Worcester. Michael Foster, MP for Worcester, is saying that convicted murderer David McGreavy should not be allowed to return to Worcester once he is released from his 30+ year jail term, since Worcester is the scene of his crimes, and the crimes were so horrific, and the damage to the town itself was so great.

When I heard this, I didn't know who David McGreavy was. It was only the mention of "horrific murders of three small children" that dislodged the memory. And even then, I couldn't be sure. The memory was real enough (albeit hazy), but was it a memory of a real event or just a local legend, concocted to keep small children on the straight and narrow?

What I remembered (before doing a bit of research just now) was that, sometime in the early 70s, a man had taken three small children and impaled them on the iron railings at the bottom of his garden. I never knew why he had done this, nor what had led up to it. No grown-up ever wanted to supply the details. All I knew for sure was that the murders had taken place in Gillam Street, which is just a few yards from where I lived for a while as a child.

Up until we moved there, I had always put this crime down to the bogey man. (Aged around nine, me and some friends were convinced we had found where THE actual bogey man lives, and went looking for him. Brave or what? But that's another tale...) Who else could do such a crime? The bogey man had come and taken these kids and killed them, just like in the fairy tales. Simple. Crime solved (to my young mind). But then, moving into this new street, someone said "See them iron railings over there? That's where he skewered the kids." But again, that's all I got. Some rusty railings, a local legend.

Bogey man? Surely this crime couldn't really have happened? When things like this go on, everyone knows about it. It's all over the news, all over the country. The place becomes famous for that one macabre event (Dunblane, Hungerford, Soham...) But no, I asked around once again and was told this HAD happened, but still no one wanted to talk about it. Brushed under the carpet. Let's talk about nice, respectable things, and leave the past to the past.

Why? Why can't we talk about this killer, and those poor forgotten kids? I wanted answers. What did those kids do to deserve it? Why did the man want to do such a thing? Those railings over there - are they still the same railings that dripped blood, years earlier? Did people look out of their windows and see the children there, and scream?

Don't be so morbid. You're sick. How can you disrespect the dead like that?

For me, having this issue hushed up cast a grim light over the whole "city" of Worcester. It seemed to me that I was growing up in a place where stuff like that can happen, but respectable people ignore it, don't want to dirty their minds with it. Maybe it's too painful to face. When this happened, in 1973, I would have been 2 years old and my brother 4. I can see (being a dad myself now) how it would have filled my mum with anguish, especially now I know that the killer was not even the kids' father, but a lodger (ie: someone from outside the family unit). But even so.

This is what happens, quietly, in Worcester.

Small children.
Iron spikes.
A drunk man.

I'm aware that things would be different now. If this happened now, it would be all over the news. There would be true crime books about it, documentaries. Sick jokes circulating the internet, tour guides... Maybe a souvenir iron spike turning up on Ebay. We're open about these things now. We accept that they happen. We feel OK with that frisson of pleasure, when we think about what happened out there in the big bad world. We're facing up to it, embracing it... NOT sweeping it under that dirty, hideously out of date Axminster carpet. But is it really any better? We accept that these things happen, but should we?

Q. When three kids are brutally murdered, which is the better response?

a. Sweeping it under the carpet.
b. Dragging it out into the media glare.
c. Other?

Coming back to this morning, as I listened to the local news, it seems that this David McGreavy is coming up for parole, and people are wondering where he's going to be heading. I don't know what I think about that. In my heart I know that someone who can do that to kids should be snuffed out himself in the most painful of ways. He should die without pity or dignity, with spit on his face and salt in his wounds. But then I also know that the law, though much abused, must be upheld. A crime is committed, the perpetrator is caught, arrested, convicted, incarcerated. Everyone is happy. The citizens can put it all behind them and sleep safely in their beds, even if they'll never look at an iron railing the same way ever again. And then what?

Then the bogey man gets out.

Then the bogey man comes home.