Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Wonder Year

Thanks to something I've been reading and the music I've been listening to lately, I got to thinking about a small hypothetical. If you could go back to live in any one year from your lifetime, which one would you choose?

It was an easy pick for me - 1996.

I was in London at a time when the whole 'Cool Britannia' thing was exploding. It was the place to live. Britpop was huge, the country was getting behind its football team for Euro 96 (arguably England's last decent tournament performance) and - at least from where I was standing - the city was a vibrant, optimistic place to be. On a personal level I was doing a job that I was not only pretty good at but also enjoyed immensely, I was still young enough for most of my pay to be going on entertainment rather than 'responsible' expenditure and I'd just met the woman I'd eventually marry.

Certainly time will have given it a rosier hue, but even taking that into account it takes some beating for a single 12 month period.

So yes, 1996 for me please. How about you?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Judge For Yourselves

As you may have noticed, I've not got my finger on the pulse of popular culture just at the moment. So while it may be old news to most of you, I was very excited to find out yesterday that a new Judge Dredd movie is on the cards.

Considering the Batman franchise was rescuable even after Joel Schumacher turned it into a campsite, there's no reason why a second attempt at Dredd can't rectify all the mistakes made in the Stallone version from the 90s. So yes, as far as I'm concerned, bring it on. I'll certainly be buying a ticket.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Story Comes to Pass

The good folks over at Morrigan Books have just announced their latest anthology, a collection of near-future stories called Grants Pass.

"The world has ended.
It was an act of bio-terrorism gone horribly wrong. A drug resistant version of the Black Death, an airborne mutation of the Ebola virus and the 'Super Flu' were let loose on the world. Barely anyone survived.
A year before the collapse, Grants Pass, Oregon, USA, was labelled as a place of meeting and sanctuary in a whimsical online, 'what if' post. Now, it has become one of the last known refuges, and the hope of mankind.
Would you go to Grants Pass based on the words of someone you’ve never met?"

Obviously the reason I'm bringing this to your attention is that I have a story in there. It's called Rights of Passage, it's set on the south coast of England and is either a love story or a thriller, depending on which way you look at it.

The book's due for release in July and I'll post order details here as soon as they become available. In the meantime, you can always pop along to the Morrigan site to see who's involved.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shelf-ish Opinions

There are two responses I tend to get from people when they find out I write. Most of them assume that, as jobs go, it's far more glamorous and better paid than it actually is. The second response, meanwhile, is usually a double query: 'What have you written?' and 'Is it in the shops?'.

That latter question has become something of a bane to me. To date the stories I've had published are mostly for Big Finish in the UK and Morrigan Books. While BF tend to be reasonably well represented in UK bookshops, your chances of finding, say, my last Short Trips story in a bookshop over this way are slim to non-existent. And with Morrigan still a growing company (and therefore still working on their distribution) the best way to get any of the stories I've written is to order them online.

Now I like to trawl bookshops for my purchases where possible, but if online's the way to go I have no problems with that. For most people who ask me, however, this seems to be something of a problem: I can see their eyes glaze over as soon as I mention buying from websites. For them, bookshops convey legitimacy: if it's not on the shelf in a shop, it doesn't exist.

Which is why I'm dead chuffed that Morrigan have completed the next step in their distribution plans and sold Voices into Perth's Fantastic Planet bookshop. I'll be able to direct people to a real-life shop, into which they will be able to wander and physically touch the book. Yes, it's real: pick it up, read the back. Riffle the pages. Sniff it.

Then buy it. It's really rather good, you know.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Not the answer to the ultimate question, rather today's temperature in Perth. The ground outside is hot enough to take a layer of skin of your feet, the wind scorches your eyeballs and the parkland five minutes up the road is on fire for the second time in a month.

But I got some tea, so all's well.

As to that, Addster has challenged me to find an acceptable tea-bag by the end of 2009. While the mere thought flies in the face of all I hold sacred what the hell, I'll give it a go. That's a lot of possible tea bags to get through, though, so any Strayan readers who have recommendations, drop me a line. When I have a decent-sized list I'll try some out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Miss Da Tea

(I don't expect any sympathy for this post. On the contrary, I'm braced for gales of derisive laughter and mockery ...)

I've been living in Australia for nearly 12 years now, but I still retain much of my stiff-upper-lipped Britishness. I'm incapable of throwing a cricket ball in a straight line, I won't countenance beetroot on a burger and I call creamy dairy products 'yog-hurt', not 'yo-gurt'.

Also I cannot function properly without tea. So when I ran out this afternoon, it was a complete disaster.

'Just go out and buy more!' I hear you cry. Would that it were so easy. You see, January is always the worst month of the year for me financially. The pay offices of the various magazines I work for close up completely from mid-December to mid-January, so I can't invoice for any new work for a month. Meanwhile I have to invoice in advance for all the regular contract work I'll do in that four-week period. That's fine, if you're a decent financial planner, but for anyone else ... well, you can see the problem, can't you? A sudden fattening of the bank account, just days before Christmas ...

It's been especially tough this year, with my wife's teaching work at the university summer school falling through. Today our combined financial resources clocked in at about 45 cents, so popping out for tea: not an option.

Fortunately tomorrow marks the end of the cash drought and my account will be (for a very short time) in the black. Until then, I have to cope with the box of emergency tea bags I found lurking in the back of the cupboard.

Oh, did I not mention I have tea bags? The thing is, I'm not just cash-strapped, I'm also a tea snob. Tea-bag tea does not taste the same as real tea. It just doesn't. So I won't drink it. For me it's got to be leaves brewed in a proper pot to the correct strength (mahogany-coloured ... builders' tea).

Which is how my wife came to stroll into the kitchen and find me frantically hacking the tops off the bags with a knife and tipping the contents into our tea pot.

Yes she laughed, as I'm sure you are. But do you know what? I had a cup of tea. Made with leaves. Brewed correctly. Mahogany-brown colouring.

And it tasted like shit.

I bring it on myself, don't I?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For my frozen UK readers ...

Like sun? Beaches? Swimming? Write a blog? Then this could be for you.

God, ten years ago I'd have been off like a shot ...

(Thanks to girliejones for her original post - it was too good not to share!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Resolution Road

I'm not very good at keeping New Year's Resolutions, but things seem to be working out rather well at the moment. As far as getting fit goes, the arrival in the house of a Wii Fit board has had a huge impact, and I've turned into something of an exercise junkie. That is, of course, extremely out of character, but the thing's just too damn convenient. I can do 45 minutes of physical jerks every day without having to leave the house, which means I can still keep an eye on the kids while I hurt myself. I just don't have a sufficiently good excuse not to do it any more. Anyway, I've lost 1.1kg in six days so far. Which is nice.

As to my decision to take on at least one larger fiction project than usual, I wasn't expecting to make much headway with that until the kids went back to school. But a long e-chat with someone a couple of nights back included an offer of work that, while it wasn't something I've ever really considered doing before, could fit the bill. More about that when it's confirmed. In the meantime I'm still scribbling madly in notebooks, getting ideas in order for a spec piece I've been nursing for a few months. I want to be ready to start as soon as classes restart in three weeks, and it's looking promising.

A good beginning then - just got to maintain the pace.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

'Who the ...?'

I'm very pleased to say that wasn't my response to the announcement of Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor Who. From what I read, the vast majority of people scratched their heads and gaped when Smith was unveiled, but thanks to a large dollop of synchronicity I'm slap in the middle of watching a review DVD of Party Animals, which features the Doctor Elect in a lead role.

Based on that and his turn alongside Billie Piper in the recent Sally Lockhart adaptations, I think he might be rather good. Ignore the fact that for the first time ever the actor cast as the Doctor is younger than me (considerably so) - that says more about how I've aged than anything else. Incoming producer Steven Moffat is patently no idiot, he must have seen something there worth signing up regardless of Smith's youth.
So yes, I'm pleased with that. Looking forward to seeing how he shapes up.
Meanwhile I'm also looking forward to a morning of dipping into the frothing, foam-flecked madness of the Doctor Who message boards. Already alongside the congratulatory posts and the more even-handed responses there are a couple of promising looking threads, like: 'Not another pretty boy!'; 'Is it time to stop watching?' and 'Has Matt Smith's casting started the Moffat backlash?'.

Fandom. Always good for a laugh.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The One With The Maggots ...

It may seem churlish to keep grumbling about the heat - not to mention perpetuating the image of the 'whingeing pom' - but even with things a tad cooler today the climate's still able to throw up a lovely surprise or two.

Take this morning, as I trudged blearily into the kitchen ... and felt something squish underfoot. Looking down it became apparent that a large portion of the tiled floor was actually moving. Come on, you've read this post's title, you can guess what's coming:

They might not have been as big as the Pertwee variety, but to witness so very, very many of them migrating from the bin to the other side of the room made them just as memorable.

We can only have emptied the bin a couple of days ago, but it seems the flies that abound in this weather have been extremely busy in the interim. Maybe the heat is making their eggs hatch faster, I don't know. But even with the legion slithering across the floor, the inside of the bin itself was still teeming, alive with squirmy little buggers. I barely had time to get rid of them them all before my wife and kids appeared to see what was going on.

I'm just counting myself lucky they weren't spiders ...

Better news from the Interweb - I found out last night that Just Us, my story for last year's Voices collection, made it onto
HorrorScope's recommended reading list for 2008. I'm not entirely sure who of the people mentioned on the website actually compiled the list, but it's flattering to be mentioned, so thank you, whoever you are.

Now to settle back and wait for the day's big announcement. Exciting, huh?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hot and Can't Be Bothered

Spoke to my grandmother on the phone last night and she informed me that she's now due a harsh weather payment from the government to help with the heating bills. The payment kicks in after three days of sub-zero temperatures apparently, and her part of England has just passed that mark. I've got to admit to being a bit jealous, not of the payment - although a bit of extra cash wouldn't hurt right now - but of the cold.

We're now into our third (or is it fourth?) day of high-30s heat here in Perth. Compared to previous Januaries, that's not so bad - the last couple of years the temperature's consistently topped 40 degrees. Not only that, we were living in a poorly ventilated weather-board house that effectively slapped on an extra five degrees. But despite the weather being slightly cooler and our having moved in a house with a breeze, I've still slipped into an apathetic lassitude that's thwarting any activity more taxing than laying under a fan with a book or a DVD.

Obviously that's not the most conducive state of mind for concocting New Year's Resolutions, so I'm running a bit behind all those bloggers who've already posted their promises of self-improvement. I do have a couple ... not the most original or exciting, but I'm stuck in first gear here.

1) Post here more regularly. I've been a bit slack about it recently. Must do better.

2) Exercise more. This is my wife's resolution, actually, but I inevitably get caught in her slipstream so why not? Contingent on the heat abating enough for me not to keel over from sunstroke and on my left knee not giving up on me again. That'll probably mean a trip to buy new trainers - the last time I jarred the aforementioned joint I was wearing joggers so old I might as well have been running in flip-flops.

3) Something Bigger. This year both the kids are in school full-time, which will free up a full five days of peace and quiet each and every week in which to write. At the moment I'm getting a couple of short stories done each year, which is fair enough with the time available, but from the end of this month ... well, I'd like to take on a larger project or two. I have a small idea that's growing steadily, but if any editors are looking to commission out audios, novellas, hell, novels even, I've got nothing but a keyboard and time on my hands ...

That'll do for now then. Back to the fan.

Oh, and Happy New Year. (See? Brain melt ...)