My five year old son asked me what God looks like yesterday. I immediately started thinking about the way I asked myself that question while I was writing Schaefer's Integrity about ten years ago. But I replied, "Well, what do you think God looks like?" He said he didn't know, but could we look him up on the iPad. So we Googled God. And sure enough, on the internet you get a lot of pictures of a bearded old white fella parting the clouds. I explained that nobody had ever seen God and these were just people guessing. Then I suggested maybe my son would like to draw his own idea of what God looks like. So he did. What does it tell you that he drew a man dressed in black with a red face and... are they horns...?
Sunday, 13 July 2014
Thursday, 19 June 2014
I'm going to use the word "tapestry" here because I can see no other way of describing the route my new set of Axiom Few short stories seems to be taking. BRENDA's origin story is well underway and I'm really excited. The stories are becoming a tapestry and that may well influence the title of the story collection when it comes out. It won't all be about new characters though. At the end of The Autumn Structure our friend Geek was trapped on an alien vessel and I have to get him off there!
All this will come in time. I'm having a lot of fun with it at the moment. In the meantime, why not head over to Amazon and get the book that started it all...
Thursday, 30 January 2014
Friday, 17 January 2014
Monday, 21 October 2013
A lot has been said against the 2011 film, that it is a pale imitation of John Carpenter's classic horror, but I think it is a great piece of work, and it stands well against the older film, and it is a real joy to see them back to back, to learn what happened to the fated Norwegians before that helicopter came buzzing over the Antarctic ice shelf chasing that dog. And the two films, despite being made nearly 30 years apart, gel beautifully together.
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
I've backed Ian's book and you can do it too by going here, and I'll be keen to hear from Ian how he gets on with his project, and I hope it gains the funding level it needs to go forward. The book certainly looks like a lot of fun, and although it initially looks like it might be an older read than my four year old will be able to understand (though I may be wrong about that), I'm sure I will enjoy reading it nonetheless. It's always great to read stuff by people you know.
Ian also has a book on Kindle, A Year Without Beer, which you can find here and gets a respectable 4.5 stars.
Thursday, 11 July 2013
My brand spanking new short story collection A Comet of Ideas Looking for a Planet is free on Kindle until Sunday 14th July.
This collection covers fifteen years of writing, of stories that weren't part of the Axiom Few canon, or novels, obviously. In a later post I will write more about the stories behind the stories, but for now I hope you enjoy reading it.
Wednesday, 3 July 2013
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Tuesday, 25 June 2013
The video went on to win the BBC's Showreel 87 Film Awards, Judged by Michael Apted (Gorillas in the Mist, The World Is Not Enough, Blink), Chris Menges (The Reader, The Mission, The Killing Fields) and Bob Godfrey (creator of Henry's Cat) with “Why?”, a film about school bullying, shot on video and televised in the Christmas of that year. As the cameraman on that film I was especially honoured to be told by Michael Apted that he was impressed with the camerawork.
I had always wanted to be a film maker and even did five days running at Scott Free, Ridley and Tony Scott's production company in Beak Street, Soho in 1993. It was then however, that the reality check hit me and I decided that the politics of film-making was definitely not for me. The highlight of that short tenure was to lay eyes upon the original H R Giger drawings for Alien, hanging above the great man's desk, and the large globe used by Gerard Depardieu as Columbus in 1492. Ridley himself was on the phone while I stocked his fridge with beer, but he did take a moment to thank me as I was leaving his vast top-floor office.
Fast-forward 20 years and when the opportunity to write and direct a short video for Cheshire Council's ICT Service Desk came along, I seized the moment and wrote a short treatment for the opening scene of the video, which, it had already been decided by the team, would be a riff on "Men in Black".
Cue the "Service Desk in Black", which formed the "fun video" part of an overall entry by the ICT Service Desk into the Service Desk Institute's annual awards for "Best Large Service Desk". As a finalist, the fun video has to be produced for the Gala ceremony. It has to showcase the team and the great work they do.
So, now the ceremony has been and gone, we can unleash the video to YouTube. We shot it over three evenings in early May 2013, and had a huge laugh doing it. It was one of the highlights of my career to be involved in this project.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Friday, 30 November 2012
Set at the edge of our solar system, amongst the many spinning stations and stones that make up the Kuiper Belt mining colony, Duncan Schaefer, a lowly chef, becomes infected with a virus that brings into question a number of beliefs held by the scientific community. The virus has a mind of its own and soon Duncan is on a quest to Earth to discover the truth about the strange mutations in his body, and his bizarre dreams of an inverted pyramid structure in distant space...something called the Extraction Point.
Below is a snippet from Schaefer's Integrity. Get the novel free here.
Monday, 26 November 2012
If you have read the collection, or even only part of it, I would be hugely grateful if you could write a short review on Amazon. Every review helps sell more copies and I really would like this collection to be a success.
Sometime between now and Christmas I will be promoting one other book in a free 2-day extravaganza, Schaefer's Integrity, so keep an eye out for that, and I will obviously be making it known here, and on Twitter and Facebook, when that happens.
In the meantime please look at my other works which (due to various copyright issues) will probably not be going for free on Kindle in the foreseeable future. Those are The Axiom Few, Spireclaw and The Daedalus Transfer (the latter two of which can be read right now on this website).
Thanks again everyone!
Friday, 23 November 2012
Just a quick post to let you Kindle readers know that my short story collection "The Train Set" is available on Amazon for free today and tomorrow (Nov 23rd and 24th). I would love it if you downloaded and had a read of one or two stories within it, (or all of them if you like). Then tell your friends!
You can get it here.
Here's a snippet from one of the stories... "At Steepdean Halt"
I was twelve that year when we had our last family picnic at Steepdean. The field where we had come for years was just as beautiful as ever, and in the heat of June 1976 it possessed a summery beauty that seemed to contrast so plainly against the tragedy that happened here; a tragedy that protracted an idyllic day in the countryside into a sad and mournful autumn.
My younger brother, Samuel, aged eight, hands sticky with dried orangeade, beat me in a running race to the edge of the field where the trees began. He may have been four years younger than me but he was just as tall and his legs were powerful. He’d probably had more sugar than me too. Besides, I was a girl and in my brother's eyes, girls could never be faster than boys.
Though we were both out of breath when we got to the edge of the field we wasted no time in seeking shade from the high sun, which pierced the perfect blue sky but could not penetrate the canopy of leaves.
Samuel was already standing astride on the lowest branch of one of the bigger trees when I caught up, and while I bent over out of breath with the heels of my hands supported on my knees, he was eagerly climbing to the next set of branches.
‘Be careful,’ I shouted knowing full well that my pleas would not be heeded. In fact, he was already on the next branch up and could probably see the village from his vantage point if he looked to the south across the cut.
The railway below had been almost invisible to me, and when the sound of a diesel train started to rise in the distance to the east it became obvious just how close to the track we were. Through the trees below us the sun pinched the four rails. The ever louder churning of the oncoming train filled the day and soon the smell of the locomotive was upon us, as was the train itself. A flat fronted, yellow-faced, blue Class 60 with 8 passenger carriages plunged noisily past us. No sooner had it appeared did it disappear to the west, dropping us back into a silence punctuated by nothing but the sound of the church bell in the village tolling two o'clock.
Samuel and I had been silent and unmoving while the train had passed, but this minor interlude, or the apparent danger it presented, did not stop my brother from boldly climbing to a higher part of the tree.
'You should come down from there,' I called, but the grin he returned to me displayed that a common stubbornness had possessed him, the kind of bloody-mindedness that usually ended up with grazed hands and knees, salty tears and ice-cream. As he advanced further along a branch that seemed incapable of holding even his small frame, I thought these actions would end in tears. I had no idea that the tears would belong to my mother, my father and me.
The moment it all started was when Samuel stopped suddenly, looking down and out in front of him as though he was eyeing a place to land from a jump that was both dangerous and stupid.
'Don't jump! It's too far and the ground is sloped!'
He ignored me, but said nothing and for a moment I switched my thoughts to the notion that he might have been planning a leap to the branch of another tree.
Eventually he called down to me, 'Claire. There's a girl on the railway line.'
Friday, 2 November 2012
Well Nick there's loads of us up here and we've been watching these three lights going back and forth for the last hour.
Whereabouts are they exactly? I mean, you should have a pretty good view up there right?
Yeah, they're sort of over Leith Hill way.
Isn't that the approach to Gatwick? Are you sure these aren't just planes landing Barry?
Yeah well, they would be if they were moving towards the airport but these lights are just sort of oscillating back and forth.
Really? How many are up there with you watching this?
Hundreds. We're all up on the lookout watching to the south and these lights...
Are the lights together when they move?
I mean, are they in a formation?
Yeah, like it's... like they're attached to one ship.
Or craft or what have you.
Thanks Barry. I can hear lots of people in the background. Sounds like there's a crowd up there. I'm gonna try... Jane can you... yep. I want to try and get through to Surrey police to see if they've... Ahh, they're engaged. Ok. Keep trying for me Jane. Put them through when they answer. Right, we have Anne on the line. If anyone knows what this is about then please do call in so we can put our listener's minds to rest. Now Anne you're up on Leith Hill aren't you?
That's right Nick. The lights are directly above us, we can even feel the...
How high above you are they Anne? Can you tell us?
...warmth of the lights. About fifty metres above us. Yeah, fifty to a...
So it's really quite close to you?
...hundred or so...
And how are the lights arranged? Can you...
...like a vertical rod, three lights arranged...
Can you see if it's actually a ship, like our last caller said?
...hovering above us.
I have to say that we've just had a call from the Civil Aviation Authority and they've actually suspended all inbound and out... Anne, what was that noise? Anne?
I'm here. There's a new light. A spotlight shining directly down on our hill and...
Another light? Coming from the shippy crafty thing?
...lighting up everyone on the hill. I didn't realise there were so many people up here and... oh my G...
Anne? Anne are you still there? Anne? Well it looks like we've... we've lost Anne there. Jane can you find out what happened to that line. Let's go to line five in the meantime. We have erm... let's go to Alex who's on Box Hill. Alex what can you see?
There's a like, a light shining down onto Leith Hill but from this far away I can't really work out what's going on.
We were just talking to Anne, who was on Leith Hill but the line went dead. I don't know if there's anyone else up th...
It's shooting up into the sky. The lights are climbing upwards.
Alex, stay... stay on the line, we've got to go to a break...
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
So please browse the page tabs at the top to view all (or most) of the content that was previously available on my website. I will, in a short while, update the page redirects for my web domains to point to here, so that links to me are not lost.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Dark Tickets - Also briefly seen on this blog, but new to this collection.
Flyers - A novella that is new to this collection.
Buy The Train Set from Amazon on Kindle now.
Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Go here to see them.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
"You reach a fork in the road and find an old man sitting there. To turn left in the fork, go to page 45. To turn right, go to page 56. To talk to the old man, go to page 80."
That sort of thing.
Later on, when computers came along, I fell in love with the text adventures of Magnetic Scrolls (yes there's a website for them too). With games like Jinxter, The Guild of Thieves and Corruption, I was hooked by the way that these games built worlds in your head.
Even now there is a cult following for these old style games, but interactive fiction lives on in the form of hyperfiction (hypertext fiction where you navigate the story through hyperlinks on a web page).
I've decided to have a go at creating a piece of interactive fiction for the Android phone. As a fan of the old Myst-style point and click adventures too I wanted to try and merge some of those elements in there too. As a writer I could combine a number of passions into one. Who knows, I might even end up with an App I could sell for a small fee.
So I've been having a heap of fun (a little bit of sarcasm in there in case you didn't notice) installing the Java Development Environment, along with all the necessary stuff to create and build Android Apps. Let's see where I end up. I have a story, which I am building into a game narrative, and I've devised a few puzzles to challenge the reader. And I've even dug out some of the old MP3s of music I wrote on my trusty Yamaha V50 synthesizer back in the 1990s, to add a little atmosphere.
I'm very excited about this little project, and will post more as I progress on this new journey.
Monday, 26 March 2012
One day all the stars disappear. The Space Foundation call it "Star Blacking". A crew is assembled and a ship is sent out to the edge of the solar system, only to find that our solar system has been enclosed in a barrier, a shell. Alien's tell us it is for our protection, but then a war takes place outside the shell, and another set of alien's tell us they are attempting to free us from the imminent enslavement of humanity by the first aliens. Who do we believe? It sort of goes on from there...
Imagine my total disappointment when I recently picked up Peter F Hamilton's "Pandora's Star", only to find that the king of Space Opera got there first. There are a few minor differences but the principal is the same and so are the dilemmas faced by humanity.
So it's back to the drawing board for my magnum opus. Time for some new ideas. There's a beautiful moon in the sky tonight, and a stunning vista of stars. Always inspiring. New ideas area out there waiting to be had.
And it reminds me that there's a new character that's been bouncing around my head. His name is Derek Pytance. And for those of you who have read my short story collection "The Axiom Few", he's a new individual in that universe. Because I always wondered what would motivate a man to create something as powerful and omnipotent and calculating as the Biological Retro-Enabled Nth Dimensional Array (BRENDA to you and me...)
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
I uploaded it yesterday, and saw that of the other 77 entries in the official YouTube channel for the competition, only a handful seem to abide by the actual entry rules. Many entries came from the US but the competition is only open to UK and Ireland residents. Some people had uploaded existing videos of "true" ghost stories. Some had uploaded videos that were radically overlong (yes, I know mine clocks in at 2:08, but some entries are over 4 minutes). Some had uploaded videos of the written text with some spooky music over the top. When I say spooky music, I actually mean it sounded like someone had dusted off their old Yamaha DX7, plugged it into an amplifier, selected SynthViolin, and sat on the keyboard.
Another type of video people were uploading were short horror movies. One was genuinely spooky and extremely well made, but it wasn't what the competition asked for. I'm intrigued that these videos, which are not appropriate for the competition, are being added by the competition staff to the official channel. Unless I'm missing something.
I don't want this to come across as sour-grapes. After all, I won't know that my entry has lost until 6th Jan 2012, but it's intriguing, and I am interested to see how many actual law-abiding entries I am up against.
On a final note, please go and "Like" my entry on YouTube if you have the time. You never know, it might actually help.
Monday, 21 November 2011
Whilst walking to work I was listening to an old Level 42 album and pondering a new idea I had for a story. When I got to the office, to preserve the idea, I opened up Google Docs and jotted down a couple of sentences.
At lunchtime I re-read my notes and decided to turn it into a story. By the time I'd written about 400 words I realised that this would easily work as a 600 word story for 365tomorrows.com, who publish a daily flash-fiction piece in the sci-fi genre.
The last time I submitted something to 365tomorrows they rejected it weeks later, on the grounds that there was no narrative to the story (the story was written in pure dialogue).
Once this new story was completed I made two changes. I changed the gender of one character and the name of another. By the end of the day I had submitted the story, entitled "Freedom Someday" to 365tomorrows.
The usual turnaround response time for a story submitted to 365tomorrows is 4-6 weeks.
On Saturday morning, the next day, 365tomorrows had emailed me back to accept it, saying that the story was fantastic, and would be published on their website as the piece for Monday 21st November. Naturally I was thrilled!
So, within the space of 24 hours I'd had an idea for a fiction story, which I converted to a set of notes, which I converted into a 600 word story, which I submitted to an online publishing entity, and had it accepted; an achievement symptomatic of the Internet Age.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
The musical creativity of Thomas Dolby has influenced me greatly over the years. In my writing I am inspired by soundscapes and the changing of the seasons and when it comes to Autumn, for some reason, Thomas Dolby's music captures the feeling perfectly.
I had only a fleeting knowledge of Thomas Dolby in the eighties when his single "Hyperactive" came on my radio and I can't say it grabbed me much. The sounds were a little to harsh for my young ears and it all seemed a little too jokey. Tears for Fears and Level 42 were as far as I was willing to go at the age of twelve. It wasn't until 1992 when I was watching the ITV Chart Show one Saturday morning that I heard his single "Silk Pyjamas", which I loved on first listen. I took a punt on the album "Astronauts & Heretics" and it very quickly became one of a my all time favourite records. My girlfriend at the time had negated to tell me (not that I expected her to) that she already had a copy of another single off the album "Close But No Cigar". She bought a copy of "Astronauts" too and it quickly became one of those quirky aspects of young relationships, an "us" record. With lyrics like "Once in a while, a girl comes along, and opens your heart like a spam tin", how could it not be..? But the album was also, for me, the sound of Autumn; of wet leaves painting urban pavements. Of wind, rain and grey clouds. Of bracing Sunday afternoon country walks with blue, blue sky.
Mr Dolby's earlier albums followed quickly for me that Autumn and each had their way of being the soundtrack of that time. From Dolby's "Fieldwork" I stepped sideways into the music of Ryuichi Sakamoto, and by association into the works of Aztec Camera and David Sylvian. Through the production of Bill Bottrell on Dolby's "Aliens Ate My Buick" I found Sheryl Crow's "Tuesday Night Music Club", which he also produced.
Dolby's career became difficult to follow after that. He did a concept album called "Gate to the Mind's Eye" which, for me, only spawned one masterpiece song "The Valley of the Mind's Eye". He moved into the mobile ringtone business as well as being a speaker and all-round tech pioneer based in Silicon Valley. Now he has a new album out and strangely it appears in Autumn. In the 19 years between "Astronauts & Heretics" and "A Map of the Floating City", I had three interactions with Thomas Dolby.
The first was an email which I sent to a Compuserve account (address printed in an album sleeve) circa 1996 asking where I could find the latest information about Thomas Dolby. I was directed in the reply, to one of those new-fangled website thingys, the Flat Earth Society, the fanclub homepage. The email was signed simply "Thomas".
The next time was during an interview with him on BBC 6 Music in 2003, where a question I had submitted to the program was actually read out. In short, "When would there be a new album?". He replied that he had a garage at the bottom of the garden and that one day he would get in there and start recording. That "garage" later turned out to be a lifeboat on the Suffolk coast.
The third time I approached him was in 2009 under the umbrella of the Commonwealth Business Council, to ask if he would be able to speak at one of our conferences. We were holding a flagship forum in Trinidad & Tobago and were looking to create a session on innovation in technology. Thomas was enthusiastic and we exchanged a number of emails to arrange for him to get there, but unfortunately, in the end, his schedule did not permit for him to come, as even then he was becoming more and more involved with touring and working on the new record.
"A Map of the Floating City" came out in the UK on October 24th 2011 and on that day I happened to be working on a conference in Australia. If any of this blog so far says anything to you, it would indicate that this geographical hurdle would present a challenge worth taking on. Amazon UK MP3 downloads don't permit purchases outside the UK, so in order to get this record loaded onto my player for the long flight home I had to remote access the CBC's London server, install Amazon's MP3 downloader, purchase the album through a browser window, download it to the server, install Dropbox there, copy the album to the Dropbox folder, and bring it down to my laptop in Perth. It was worth the effort.
To quote a lyric from 1992s "I Love You Goodbye", "Typhoon Pierre delayed our plane till morning". The truth of it was that the Qantas strike had left us stranded at Perth airport with perhaps no way of getting home for several days. I was already missing my wife and son, so when our plane was grounded I felt further away from them than ever. Thanks to Emirates we were able to get a flight out a few hours later. Hearing this album on the plane I felt once again that sense of longing that music so beautifully underpins. And Dolby's songs often talk about airline travel. From air-lanes that "comb dark Earth", to the "wide Brazilian sky that swallowed you", it all seemed to fit.
Dolby remains a master of sowing a musical flourish under my skin. The short, distorted and reverbed guitar riff in "A Jealous Thing Called Love". The sweeping harmonies in "Oceanea", which is perhaps the most evocative piece about the sea since the Tears for Fears B-Side "Pharoahs", and is somehow reminiscent of his lovely 1984 song "Screen Kiss". The epic "17 Hills" which is the "Budapest by Blimp" of this new work all serve to remind me why I loved Dolby back in the 1990s, and still do to this day. This album made me think about how, as a thirty-eight year old, and as a father to a two-and-a-half year old boy, my son is closer than me to those teenage years of musical discovery, where songs become the soundtrack, the foundations and the scenery of your life. Maybe it'll be Thomas Dolby. It probably won't. But I cannot wait to experience that discovery with him when he gets there.
Friday, 26 August 2011
Thursday, 11 August 2011
Writing has been sporadic of late. Work has been all-consuming as our company has seen it's busiest year (with fewest staff, but isn't that the case everywhere?). When you want to write, it's a shame that life gets in the way.
That said. I have had some real, though occasional bursts of creativity; pushing forward with a novella that was previously titled "The Fourdrinier Operator" and has since gone through two more titles and a 5,000 word boost in its word-count. The first draft went to my mother for review (she's just completed an Open University creative writing course and her opinion is valuable in these matters). A positive response on the whole but she identified areas for revision and reworking. So that's a job for later.
In the science fiction area I've been thinking up the next batch of Axiom Few stories and once they crystallise a little more I will start on them. I've got another interesting short story on the go called "The Tower and My Number" which has been brewing in my head. It's based on a very odd dream I had recently, and I'm liking the dystopian atmosphere in it.
In 2012 I should be in a position to release my next short story collection "The Train Set", so more on that as it develops.
Friday, 4 February 2011
See you there...
Friday, 21 January 2011
Then a funny thing happened two days ago. I was walking to work listening to a decidedly "January" album, entitled "From Monday to Sunday" by Nick Heyward. And suddenly I was thinking out my nemesis novella, The Fourdrinier Operator, for which this album (along with "Astronauts" by The Lilac Time) has acted as a sort of soundtrack. Readers of this blog will know how much pain I've felt in concocting this piece of fiction. But the music helped me have a revelation. There were two things I needed to do to revitalise the piece. One was to change the name, which I have now done, and the other was to change where it was set. Suddenly, after a year, I was able to write another 500 words of the story and do some much needed editing on other parts. Much of the story is set in early Spring, so I hope that as the flowers start to bud and the sun shows it's face more often, and for longer, I'll feel that I have the wherewithal to actually finish the novella.
Friday, 24 September 2010
The Axiom Few short story collection is now available to buy in paperback or eBook download. It features eight interconnected tales, three of which have been previously published in Jupiter SF magazine. With an introduction by Rod MacDonald of SFCrowsnest.com.
Click here for more info and click here to buy.