Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

As the last day of 2007 wends inexorably towards midnight and the first day of 2008, I find myself pondering the achievements of the last year and considering the upcoming projects which await me in January and beyond.

It is almost six months since I gave up full-time work to write and so far things seem to be shaping up nicely. In that time I have written a novel, pitched and completed my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny adventure, and am now working on my next project, due for summer 2008. Next year, after finishing my latest book it looks like I'll have at least another two novels to write along with a novella. I have a number of other irons in the fire but, as usual, I won't speak about those until I have something more concrete to report.

Over at his blog 'Vicious Imagery', David Bishop (freelance writer and one-time editor of 2000AD and the Judge Dredd Megazine) has also been pondering the past year's creative efforts. You can read about his hits and misses here.

But for now, from 'Unnatural History', enjoy yourselves tonight and here's to a happy - and creative - 2008.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doctor Who?

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Doctor who?
You said it.

Well, the secret's out. The clandestine project I recently completed, which is for a major intellectual property, is a Doctor Who spin-off for children.

'The Horror of Howling Hill' is another book in the 'Decide Your Destiny' range published by Penguin Character Books under the BBC Books imprint. These books, aimed at 9 - 12 year olds, send the child reader off on an adventure through space and/or time with the Doctor and his companion Martha Jones, the child deciding at the end of each page what happens next.

My own story is set in present day England, and draws on many familiar Doctor Who staples that have cropped up over the years during the original series. I had great fun writing it and got to put in all sorts of subtle - and not so subtle - references to other Who stories and SF TV shows along the way.

Check out this link to the Amazon website to keep up to date with publication dates and the like.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Voyages of the Damned


Have just enjoyed the Doctor Who Christmas Special 'Voyage of the Damned' with the family and all the way through I couldn't help drawing parallels with my next Pax Britannia novel 'Leviathan Rising'. I could see similarities all the way through, from the stricken cruise liner to... Well, that would just be giving too much away!

I suppose the similarities are inevitable, considering that Russel T Davies and myself have obviously taken our inspiration from the same source material, in other words, 1970s disaster movies.

Anyway, rest assured, even if you've just enjoyed 'Voyage of the Damned' as well, there are still plenty of surprises in store for all of you when you come to read 'Leviathan Rising', when it's published next March. But just bear in mind that I finished the book over a month before I saw the Doctor Who special!

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

With the 25th December only a matter of days away, I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

And just to get you into suitably festive mood, follow this link to a special Christmas performance by some of the characters from my various Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

Ho ho ho.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Paul Jeacock

The first comic strip I ever had commissioned was ‘Kill Confirmed’, which appeared in a special free issue of the Warhammer Monthly comic given away with Games Workshop’s White Dwarf magazine. It was a short tale of life and death in the Necromundan Underhive with a nasty twist in the tail.

The artist assigned to the strip was Paul Staples whose name was already familiar to me from his work on seminal British anthology comic 2000AD. His work on ‘Finn’ for the ‘Interventions’ had impressed me in particular.

Since he illustrated ‘Kill Confirmed’ he mysteriously became Paul Jeacock and worked for a time as part of Games Workshop’s art department. While there, he was particularly involved in developing the most recent editions of the Warhammer Wood Elves army and the new Ogre Kingdoms range.

To find out what he’s up to now, check out the following link to his own website.

P J Holden

P J Holden is an artist who is steadily making more and more of a name for himself within the world of comics. Having started out illustrating scripts for 2000AD (producing a fair few pages for Judge Dredd as well as Future Shocks and the ‘86ers’) he is now working on the ‘Fearless’ mini-series for Image Comics.

I came to work with P J when I was scripting strips for Warhammer Monthly. I had written a three-page, one-trick story set in Games Workshop’s Necromunda setting (a futuristic industrial wasteland off-shoot of the Warhammer 40,000 universe) called ‘Slavebreak’.

A little while later I actually received an email from P J, letting me know that he was going to be the artist on the strip. No other comic artist I had worked with before had done this (and they haven’t since either). Apart from his friendly approach, what impressed me the most about P J was his enthusiasm. It seems he went to a great deal of trouble for such a short strip, sending me character sketches of some of the hard-bitten pit-slaves who feature in the tale, before setting to work on the strip pages themselves.

I would love to show you some of these, but this was a long time ago and (a fair few computers later) unfortunately I don’t have them anymore. However, I have included a scan here of the first page of the script to give you an idea of what it was like.

You can read more about what P J is up to at the moment, and browse his portfolio at his official website ‘Notes from the Drawing Board’.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Words of Wisdom for a Wednesday Night

I have recently set to work on a new project and, as is often the way with me, this precipitated a clearing of my desk of all the material used on the last book. I came across two quotes which I have kept because they resonate with me. Both are attributed to the Chinese thinker and social philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC) and I'd like to share them with you here.

"In all things, success depends upon previous preparation without which there is sure to be failure."

"To learn and, from time to time, to apply what one has learned, isn't that a pleasure?"

Readers of earlier posts will know that as well as being writer I am also a teacher, so there's one quote for each of those two aspects of my personality. And in posting this now, I am reminded of just how much the second quote, in particular, is so pertinent to me.

Class dismissed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Clint Langley

Flashback to the summer of 2002: I’ve just been commissioned to write my first full-length 100,000 word novel and then, to top it all, I discover that Clint Langley is to produce the front cover! I danced the Happy Dance that day, I can tell you.

If I remember rightly, I first came across Clint’s work in 2000AD on the much underrated strip ‘Dinosity’. He went on to produce art for Judge Dredd strips and the like, and then came ‘Slaine: Lord of Misrule’ where the time-travelling axe-of-the-Earth-Goddess took on the Sheriff of Nottingham, and an extraterrestrial Blood God. I loved Clint’s pen work on this strip and the way in which he realised monsters on the page.

Fast forward a few years and Clint was now working with writer Pat Mills on Slaine again, only now using digital techniques to produce the most startling, photo-realistic images I had seen in a comic in a long time. More recently he has used those same techniques to good effect with the ABC Warriors. In the meantime, of course, he has also been producing every other cover for the Black Library’s novel lines (or so it seems). And there’s nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned.

The cover image he produced for ‘The Dead and the Damned’ has our heroes, Torben Badenov and his band of mercenaries, battling the undead hordes of a nefarious necromancer. I still harbour the vain hope that I might one day be able to return to relating the adventures of Badenov’s Band and that Clint might produce a cover for one of my novels again.

Here’s hoping...

In the meantime, follow this link to Clint’s own homepage.

Mental Popcorn - in a good way

I just discovered this review of 'Unnatural History' on the net (Vain? Moi?) and the title of it (reproduced above) had me hooked from the start. If a publisher ever wants a quote to slap on the front of any of my novels, I think they could do a lot worse than 'Mental Popcorn - in a good way'.
Anyway, the reviewer is absolutely right. My books are not high art. Although the odd comment might creep in about the human condition along the way - and I try to avoid it, I really do - first and foremost I write novels that are intended to entertain. Having worked in a stressful career for a number of years, at the end of the day there was nothing I liked more than losing myself in a good old-fashioned adventure story.

I would imagine that people who enjoy my books are the kind of people who also enjoy James Bond movies. You pretty much know right from the start that the hero will triumph, but it's the journey to that ultimate destination which keeps you guessing and entertained, keeping you there the ride, as it were.

That said, the latest proposal I have just put the finishing touches to should provide readers with a few surprises along the way. But you'll have to wait until next year to find out more about that one.

So, apologizes for waffling and now, on with the review:

This book is not high art, and that's probably it's greatest strength. Recalling the derring-do, bizarre settings, and outlandish characters of the old pulps, Pax Britannia: Unnatural History is a steampunk powered rollercoaster of fun that moves along at the pace of a modern action movie. There are a few introspective moments for our hero, but let's face it, this thing is a modern pulp novel and that sort of thing should be limited. Fortunately, our hero spends limited time contemplating his navel, and far more time smashing drug crazed convicts, stopping rampaging dinosaurs, and saving the Queen. Moreover, the novel is lovingly reverant to it's own source material, as evidenced by little touches like the "Challenger section" of the local zoo that houses dinosaurs... If you want a fun steampunk look at a modern pulp, this book, and hopefully, this series, will provide a nice place to start. At the very least,it should allow you to unplug your brain for a little while and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Done and Dusted

Well, that's another one done and dusted.

I have just submitted my latest manuscript to one of my editors for a book which, all being well, should see print middle of next year.

I have to say that I have been very excited about this project because I've been allowed to play with a very well-known IP. However, I think now that I've finished playing with it, I've managed to hand it back in one piece, without too many obvious signs of wear and tear.

As to what that IP is... As the publisher hasn't officially said anything yet, I'm going to hold off on the details just for the time being.

Now, that reminds me. I'd better update my profile from sixteen books to seventeen...