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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Go, Go Crazy for those Bones is here!

Go, Go Crazy for those Bones is here! I came down from a morning's writing in my office on Friday to discover a package from my publisher containing ten shiny new copies of my fully revised and updated book on the latest, craziest of crazes.



And very nice it looks too! You can get yours here.

Are you up to the challenge?

I was sent this link the other day by a friend. It takes you to a site which challenges you to guess as many of the 100 most common words in the English language you can in 5 minutes. I'm not sure if I should admit to how many I scored; suffice to say, it was more than my friend!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Destiny Your Destiny - a cultural experience!

I found this in-depth review of my Doctor Who Decide Your Destiny adventure The Horror of Howling Hill over at My Cultural Experience.

Look, Mum - no handlebars!


More news from Abaddon

Abaddon Books, publishers of my Pax Britannia series, have more news regarding releases from their imprint for this autumn and next year.

Click the following link to find out more about Arrowhead and The Light of Heaven.

Libraries and Leatherjack

I have recently been rediscovering the joy of libraries and, as a consequence, the 2000AD series Leatherjack. Let me explain...

I used to go to the library a lot. First of all, as a child, I went to the local library on a Friday, after swimming club, with my Dad. He was a voracious reader, everything from the latest Terry Pratchett to the latest book on chaos string theory. In those days I enjoyed the Dr Dolittle books and Willard Price adventures.

Then I used the school library, on a very regular basis, as a secondary school student; everything from Evelyn Waugh to translations of the Latin poets. The library continued as a means of study throughout my University years (as well as being somewhere that kept me supplied with Tim Powers novels) and when I moved to Nottingham to have a bash at being a freelance writer, I was in and out of the reference section all the time, as well as picking up Alan Moore's Swamp Thing collections.

After two years, I moved to London to teach full-time but continued to use the library, mainly for research. I remember I researched the history of knucklebones in Ealing library when I was writing Go Gos Are Go Go! (now reprinted as Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones).

As I began to make a proper living for myself at last, so I started to become more extravagant; I started buying more and more books, rather than borrowing them. As a consequence I have not been the regular visitor to the local library that I once was, and have bookcases groaning under the weight of all the hardbacks I've bought (can't beat the sound, smell and weight of 'em!). This has recently been compounded by the fact that the local library has been closed for months for a re-fit.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I visited the newly re-furbished the other day with my family and discovered that they have a fantastic - and up-to-date! - graphic novels section. So it was that I came home with the collected Leatherjack by John Smith and Paul Marshall, and The Courtship of Jena Markarov (by Robbie Morrison, Simon Fraser and others).

I read Leatherjack when it was published in weekly installments in 2000AD a few years ago, but it's great to be able to re-read it now, all in one go. The artwork is still breath-taking as is Smith's familiar purple-prose. Here's the blurb from the back of the collected edition.

The Klash is the war to end all wars. A conflict of intergalactic proportions, the whole quadrant is locked in stalemate between two hugely powerful rival factions – the Khmer Noir, ruled by the terminally ill Lord Qwish, and the Empire of Spinsters, half-senile fanatics headed by the Dowager Khan, who are leading a holy crusade against smut and indecency. Caught in the crossfire is the library world of Shibboleth, a planet which contains every book in every language ever written. The Spinsters want this hive of filth destroyed, but for Qwish it may hold the answers to his prayers…

On one level Leatherjack is a straightforward sci-fi action fest. On the other it is a dark treaty on the abuse of children for the purposes of war, about the clash of cultures and the power of language. If you've not read it yourself (or if you have but haven't done so for a while) why not pick up a copy from Rebellion (2000AD's publishers) or your local library!

The Big Science Read

The Oscars seemed to pass by this year with less of a bang than a whimper and now Britain is celebrated unprecedented medal success at the Olympics but, you'll be pleased to hear that once the dust from Beijing 2008 settles, there is still another awards ceremony to look forward to.

Launched at Jodrell Bank’s literary weekend, 13th - 14th June 2008, the Big Science Read is a campaign that invites you to explore, re-discover and get excited about science-themed books. Members of the public are invited to vote for their favourite science-themed read - any book that you have found life-changing, inspirational or revelatory in some way. The book can be either factual or fictional in genre, as long as it explores science or technology as a core theme.

Now, none of my science fiction novels appear on the recommended list (as yet) but it could be argued that the Pax Britannia series deals with some modern scientific and technological issues and certainly the first story arc is driven by a certain scientific discovery. So, in theory at least, you could vote for Unnatural History or Leviathan Rising to be on the final shortlist. ;-)

To find out more about the Big Science Read, follow this link.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ian Rankin, crime writer

I love anything about the creative process from the creator's point of view, whether it be the latest Interrogation article in the Judge Dredd Megazine or an interview in SFX with Terry Pratchett. So it was that I came to watch Profiling: Ian Rankin on ITV3 the other night.

I have seen documentaries featuring Rankin before and always find him fascinating to listen to. Although this latest programme inevitably repeated some of what I already knew, more depth and detail was added about Rankin's experiences as a writer, his most famous creation Inspector John Rebus and the hidden Edinburgh that he explores in his novels.

I have only read one Rankin novel, the first Rebus story Knots and Crosses, which I devoured in a day on my way to Norfolk and back by train (it's a long story). And despite wanting to, for some reason I had never seen any of the Rebus TV dramas. In hindsight I'm glad I missed the ones featuring the miscast John Hannah (he of The Mummy fame) and this week I have managed to catch up with some of those starring the much more suitably 'lived-in' Ken Stott (who was brilliant in the Beeb's Messiah) thanks to ITV3's crime thriller season.

Having found out more about both Rankin and Rebus I am keen to pick up another of these novels soon but I'm also looking forward to the rest of ITV3's thriller season.

In general I find that all the additional freeview and satellite channels have little of worth to offer. However, in my opinion you can't go wrong with BBC3's re-runs of New Who, BBC4's documentaries (especially the recent Medieval season) and ITV3's crime dramas, such as Rebus and Cadfael. If you haven't checked them out for yourself recently you could do worse than have a look.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ghost Rider, Spurrier style

Exciting news! Over on his blog, novelist and comics writer Simon Spurrier - the man behind Gutsville, various 2000AD properties and Silver Surfer: In Thy Name - has announced that out at the end of August is the second Ghost Rider annual, Ghost Rider: Mercy! written by the good man himself.

You can read more about this imminent release at the Marvel site. But, for the meantime, congrats to Si and here's a sneaky peek at some of the gorgeous artwork to come.

A little Monkey magic


The XXIX Olympiad has now officially started, with the opening ceremony at the amazing Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing earlier today. But what's got me excited about the 2008 Olympics is the BBC's coverage of the event, or rather the animated trailer for it.





Just in case you don't know, the short animated film featuring a monkey, a pig and a green-skinned swimmer - a.k.a. Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy - has been created by the guys behind Gorillaz (in other words Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett) and was inspired by the 16th century Chinese novel Monkey: Journey to the West (after they were inspired by the same myth to create the opera of the same name). it was this tale that the classic 70s series Monkey was also based on.


The BBC trailer actually features eleven Olympic events (watch closely), as well as the all important Bird's Nest Stadium. But if, like me, you're more interested in finding out more about the inspiration behind the trail, you could do worse than click here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A little discipline

One of the hardest things about doing what you love and working from home, is making sure that you do actually work and make a success of what you love doing. There's no bones about it, what you need is plenty of self-discipline - which is easier said that acquired.

Over at his blog Vicious Imagery, writer (and one-time editor of 2000AD) David Bishop makes the case very well. As David says, 'A writer writes. Onwards.'

One Man's Poison...

As a writer of action-adventure stories, the nefarious schemes of ne'er-do-wells hold a particular fascination, for without the drama and jeopardy they inject into a situation the hero would have nothing to do.

However, to my knowledge I have never actually suggested someone actually ingest a poison themselves, unlike TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson (who, let's face it, should know better). In fact, in What is Myrrh Anyway? there is a warning against using an ingredient in a recipe that could cause harm.

So, the moral of this little story? Buy What is Myrrh Anyway? and don't trust that ginger-bearded guy off the telly! Do you think they'll be many bookings at his restaurant tonight?

A Steampunk Superhero

If you're anything like me, then from time to time you've thought that it would be fun to create your own superhero. Well, now you can - at the click of a mouse.
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If you head over to ugo.com you can try out their HeroMachine 2.5 software. You can choose the pose of your character, gender, hairstyle, companion, costume... pretty much everything!
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So, in part inspired by the new Batman movie The Dark Knight and in part inspired by my preparations for the next Pax Britannia novel (that's the one after Human Nature), I would like to present Spring-Heeled Jack, a steampunk superhero.

But in all seriousness, I could see a tool like this proving very useful when it comes to creating new characters. You simply design their look using HeroMachine, print it out and then you have a consistent image to refer back to during the writing process. I know it will help me, certainly.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones

Eleven years ago, back in the nineties, my sixth book, entitled Go Gos Are Go Go! was published. It was all about the latest craze hitting playgrounds and homes around the country - GoGo’s® Crazy Bones®!

Well now they're back, and so is my book, revised and updated for the noughties. And to accompany the forthcoming release of Go, Go Crazy For Those Bones, I've set up an accompanying blog.

To find out more, click here.