New website design and intense scribbling!

You've probably already noticed this but I've put together a new design for the website. I think I got bored with the old one. I hope you like the new look. Also, a London literary agency has written to me saying that they liked the sample chapters I sent them of 'Faery Engines' and want to read the whole manuscript. It's very welcome news! They may still not want to represent me but it's a big step forward for my first fiction novel. The only problem is, everything in the manuscript apart from the sample chapters is out of date so I have to do a thorough revision of the document. I'm therefore busy, but motivated. :)

'The Golden Web: Part 1' is nearing publication

My non-fiction book 'The Golden Web' is nearing publication through Amazon.com. I've ordered a proof copy which should arrive in the next week. Once that's been checked, the book should then be available through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, both in paperback form and digital download. I'm planning on setting up a website for that book as part of its promotion, along with some advertising in appropriate magazines. I'll also try to submit articles to those same magazines that relate to the book, to generate interest.


I've tried to keep the book light-hearted, even though it puts forward a radical new theory. As an example of this approach, here's the blurb I'll be putting in the description field:

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Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'

My odd review of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' is up on the sci-fi now web site here. They wanted sci-fi/fantasy book reviews and that's what I came up with. Here's the text:

When I was young, I thought people were much nicer to each other. This, I think, was down to the sci-fi books I read. When things went wrong in them, people pulled together, showed their mettle, overcame the odds like stars in a matinee war movie. It was a glowing, warm idea that was seriously dented when I saw ‘When worlds collide’

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My sci-fi now competition entry, 'The film that scared me the most', won!

Just a quick note to say that my competition entry for the sci-fi now competition, 'the film that scared me the most', won! A bag of blu-ray, books and other merchandise is on its way to my door.

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It's hard work listening to climate sceptics

I get annoyed with climate sceptics. I read an article recently in the Independent and the number of ranting comments from climate sceptics, based on hopeless evidence, really got my goat. I accepted that if I argued with them, I'd get nowhere. Instead, I wrote this comment: Read More...

Doctor Who: Season six and my Tarditis

I've written another article for a Sci-Fi Now competition (I am doing proper writing projects too but I think it's good practice!). This one is a review of Doctor Who: Season 6. Here it is:

It was near the end of Doctor Who season six that I knew I'd developed Tarditis.  Read More...

Sci-fi now competition: 'The film that scared me the most'

Sci-fi now are running a competition asking for people's recollections of their scariest movie. Here's my contribution (now on the sci-fi now site here):

It was The Thing.

That wasn’t the scariest part. The Thing was scary, very scary, but the scariest part was that it was my first experience of watching a scary movie with my mates.
I say mates; looking back, I’d be hard pressed to think of a definite example in which any of them acted selflessly on my behalf. It never seemed to be like ‘Stand by Me’ in which the youngsters band together and face down fears and dangers because they love their friends. It was more like a prelude to The Road. They’re friendly and want your company but you realise that if they get hungry enough, it won’t be ‘you go! I’ll stay and fight them off!’, it’ll be ‘what’s the big deal? We only want your left leg.’

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Letter to Boris: Electric taxis in London

I thought I'd send a letter to Boris Johnson putting forward the idea of introducing electric taxis in London. Read More...

New Scientist caption competition - robbed!

The winner's been announced for the second caption competition in the New Scientist. I've popped the picture alongside. My entry was 'Dan Brown novels: 4, Shakespeare plays: 0'.

The winner was Patrick Kavanagh with his line: 'No, we haven't had any Shakespeare yet. It's mostly just been Dan Brown...' Read More...

Sketch for Radio 4 show 'Newsjack' - David Cameron hires a zombie

Here's another sketch I've sent to the Radio 4 Newsjack programme. Old cuddly David gets satirised again... Read More...

Sketch for Radio 4 show 'Newsjack' - David Cameron cooks breakfast

Here's a script I've sent to the Radio 4 Newsjack programme, a snippet of political satire... Read More...

October news

Hope everyone's enjoying their Autumn (unless you're in the Southern Hemisphere in which case I hope you're enjoying your Spring). Just to let everyone know that I've updated/made new pages describing my progress with my Ancient Mysteries story, my fantasy comedy and my comedy scripts. I've also added an article talking about some of what I've learnt through several years of writing. I've already blogged about the subject here but I thought I'd give it its own page. Apart from that, I'm furiously working on several projects and drowning my sorrows over regular rejections with large amounts of tea. I've also been tearing a shed apart. For anyone frustrated and angered about the modern world and the human condition, I strongly recommend tearing a shed apart. One caveat; choose a rotten one. They come apart fairly easily...

New Scientist caption competition

Being an ardent fan of the New Scientist magazine, I couldn't resist entering its caption competition. The picture is as follows:



My entries were:

'Are you sure this'll be okay, Dr Jekyll?'

and

'And with that final drop, they had created the world's strongest espresso'

New Scientist are running one every week for four weeks, no purchase necessary!

My Star Wars: conception article is on the Sci Fi now website

A modified version of my earlier article: Star Wars is about conception is now on the Sci Fi Now website. They've run a series of entries from different people describing their memories of that great film. It's fun and a bit weird to see my musings on a professional website. Fortunately, it seems to be liked so far! :) Read More...

I've joined CND

I've joined C.N.D, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I'm not an impulsive type (I bought a new bicycle frame last week after two years of searching around and weighing up the pro's and cons) and joining CND has also taken years of thought. Read More...

Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story 2011

Here's my four page entry for the 2011 Jonathan Cape Graphic Short story competition. I entered the competition last year with a mad dash entry reported here. This year, I've tried to make it a little more adult, more about an emotional drama. Read More...

The film 'Star Wars' is really about... conception!

I loved the first ‘Star Wars’ film, I still do. I don’t think any film will ever have as profound affect on me as that movie. A big part of its influence was because of its timing. It came out when I was seven years old; a skinny kid living in suburban london who loved fantastic ideas and stirring stories. I wanted something big and awe-inspiring and slick and glorious and grandiose and absurdly naive. Read More...

New twitter account - oddscribble

I've set up a new Twitter account. I'm 'oddscribble'. I'm not sure how much I'll use it but feel free to follow me (and I'll try and follow you). I'll add twitter features to this website in the near future.

Isn't it a lovely day? :)

Graphic novel progress - first chapter done

Well, I've been living like a hermit for the last two months but it has produced something. Here's the first chapter of the graphic novel 'Cziltang Bone and the Reality Shifter' that I've been working on. I was going to make it available as a pdf but the file's 60Mb so, instead, I've put in this post as screen shots. Read More...

The AV referendum - it's still bugging me

Last week, for the first time in my entire adult life, myself and the rest of the people of the UK got the chance to chance their electoral voting system. The change available to us wasn't exactly earth shattering; we were able to choose between the current system (first past the post - you put an 'x' beside your chosen candidate and the one with the most votes gets a seat in Parliament) and AV (you get to rank your choices on the voting slip). AV wasn't much of an alternative. There are better voting methods out there like Single Transferrable Vote or STV but that was what we got.

And then two thirds of us (or at least the half of voters who actually turned up) said 'no' to AV. WHAATTTT????? Read More...

Graphic novel progress - Brush pens are good but...

Here's a page I've done using only the Tombo brush pens for colour. I'm fairly pleased with it although it does highlight one key problem with brush pens - they don't cover areas well. You might have spotted that the sky is messy, something I just can't fix with a brush pen. I've also found that I couldn't get the right colour for a frog's skin.


The answer, I think, is to use a mixed media approach. I'm going to use gouache or watercolour for large areas and the brush pens for small areas and shading. I bashed out a quick sketch this way and it was both quick and easy.


I'm making progress. Hopefully there'll be a first chapter to show soon!

Graphic novel progress - Vectorisation is getting to me...

After two days of wrestling with the whole vectorising approach (mentioned here) and going slightly bonkers, I sank back in my chair, took a deep breath, put the computer to sleep and bashed out an ink illustration in a few minutes. It's the picture shown. Read More...

Cyclists or teddy bears; who's the most dangerous?

A hot topic this month in the world of British cycling has been the plan by Tory MP Andrea Leadsom to bring in a new Bill to target dangerous cyclists (Covered here among other places).

Although the number of people killed in the UK by cyclists is around one every other year, she still feels it's important to send a message to these two-wheeled potential killers. The example she has given of a cyclist killing someone is a case where a cyclist hit a pedestrian who'd strayed into the road. To make things worse, he'd reportedly shouted at her 'I'm not going to stop!' before he hit her. Read More...

Graphic novel progress - Decisions, decisions...

Oooh, it's difficult to decide. After talking at length here about the qualities of vector illustration, I've been drawn back to my pencil shaded black and white work. I was examining one of my black and white illustrations for my fantasy comedy novel and wondered what it would look like coloured. I got my water based ink brush pens out (Tombo ABT dual brush pens) and inked in most of the picture. I then finished it off with some gouache to the face, hands and the strange eggy lump on the door. Read More...

How Herge drew Tintin

I mentioned in the last blog entry about creating a graphic novel with a 'clear line' style. I used Tintin as an example of this method. For those who are interested, there's a very useful article about Herge's methods on the National Maritime Museum website of all places. Check it out here. It's fascinating to see how the page develops; where the 'life' of the story appears and at what point it looks polished and professional.

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Graphic novel progress - Colour vectorising a pencil sketch

After three weeks of working away (in between other bits and bobs), I've made some progress on the graphic novel. The first week or so was spent investigating whether I could do the work in gouache - a sort of paint similar to watercolour but less watery (I know that's not a very technical or accurate description but it'll do). I've done gouache illustrations before, I've popped one alongside this text.

I found though that it is a slow job doing the gouache. I think I'd need to spend six months or probably longer just practicing the gouache to get good enough to churn out an entire page of gouache illustration in one day (my target rate). Juanjo Guarnido - the Blacksad artist - has certainly found a way to produce his painted artwork at a viable rate but he's spent years doing fine art followed by more years working as a Disney animator. That's a lot of practice!

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The graphic novel is finally underway

Just a squidgen of news to tell you that after months of other things taking priority like submissions, television comedies and other bits and bobs, I've finally got started on a graphic novel. After doing the excellent Arvon foundation graphic novel course last Autumn, I've been all fired up to write and illustrate a graphic novel. (I've blogged about the Arvon course here) and I'm still keen. The plan is to spend March to September doing the novel. It's a long time but it's a big undertaking. There'll be about one hundred and sixty pages to draw.

At the moment, I have a first draft of the script and I'm producing sample pages exploring the various different ways I can illustrate the graphic novel. There are many possible approaches. For example, I could paint each page with gouache or watercolour. That is the approach taken (I think) by the excellent graphic novel Blacksad, talked about here. Alternatively, I could pencil draw a page, ink it manually, scan it in and colour it on the computer. That's the approach used by Kazuo Ishiguro for his Copper series, explained here. A third approach is to do the pencil sketch, scan it in, create a vector art black line version of the illustration and then colour that on the computer. Which one is best? I've no idea. I think it'll almost certainly be a trade-off between quality vs time. Beautiful fine art on every page would be good, but not if each page takes a week. That would stretch the time spent on the graphic novel to three years! I need to aim at a page a day.

I'll soon be posting sample work on this site. Feedback is most appreciated!

A new 15 minute stage play called 'stuck'

I've completed a 15 minute stage play for the REDFest drama festival at the Old Red Lion theatre in Islington called 'Stuck'.

This was very much a 'chase the deadline' piece of work. I knew the deadline for the competition was looming and I hadn't been able to come up with something. Friday morning was my last chance. Fortunately, with the pressure of that deadline, I wrote 'Stuck' between 10am and noon. It's a simple setup; a man and a woman are stuck in a lift. Read More...

Climate Change and what trees are made from

I noticed this week that the New Scientist has a one page advert from the Spectator magazine, announcing an upcoming debate on Climate Change. It is introduced as follows:

“The number of people in the UK who do not believe in global warming has doubled in the last two years, according to a poll from the office of national statistics. Does this represent the common sense of a British public who can see the claims of the climate alarmists dissolve before their eyes?”



It’s an interesting choice of phrase, common sense. Common sense is a very important skill to have. Read More...

Just the two of us - TV comedy script

During last month and this month, the BBC have been running a television sitcom or 'narrative comedy' competition. Even though I haven't had much luck with the BBC up to now, I'm still very keen to keep trying. For this competition, the BBC wanted entrants to write a one page description of a narrative comedy idea along with a sample episode of between fifteen and thirty pages. The full details are here at the Laughing Stock website. I've now submitted an entry called 'Just the two of us'. Read More...

Carry a Rubber Ball. Make it part of your healthy lifestyle!

It's driving me nuts, that Benecol margarine spread advert on the radio. It's the one where they interview various people who say that they changed their lifestyle because they were worried about their health. They explain how they started exercising and avoiding unhealthy food and, along with all that, they had some Benecol margarine. Straight after saying that, they say their cholesterol levels went down and they'd recommend anyone else taking Benecol. So Benecol reduces cholesterol? Does it? Does it my backside! Read More...

Homeopathy and Ben Goldacre

Several people have talked to me in response to my article ‘A simple guide to how homeopathy might work’. Of them, most have been referring to Ben Goldacre’s book ‘Bad Science’ or his blog page, in particular the following article A kind of magic. I was interested to see what Mr Goldacre said on the subject of homeopathy. I knew that he thought it was no more than delusion, quackery and the placebo effect but I did want to find out what arguments he used to come to that conclusion.

Unfortunately, after reading the article, I felt he used some invalid methods to support his view. Although he did stress the importance of scientific research in establishing whether or not an actual physical mechanism is taking place - something I fully agree with - much of his article revolved around two key approaches.

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Cort guitars and being a selfish, affluent Western scumbag

About a year ago, I wanted a travel guitar to take with me on holiday and to music festivals. I had had a brief look the previous summer when I’d been to a music festival. There were several choices available; a Taylor Big Baby, an Ozark travel guitar and a Cort Earth-Mini. I tried them all.

The Ozark travel guitar was certainly very portable but it looked like a piece of equipment from an extinct outdoor sport. I wasn’t sure whether to play it or find an old feathery rubber ball to hit with it. Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t brilliant either. Since the Ozark has no sizeable resonating chamber, the instrument isn’t much different from playing a guitar that’s been sliced in half.

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My writing mistakes - volume 1

I thought it would be good to write about all the writing mistakes I’ve made. When writing is done well, it looks simple and effortless. Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ is a good example, along with anything by John Steinbeck. The problem is that a fledgling writer can easily think that excellent prose is simple to do because it looks simple. I made that mistake. In fact, I made so many mistakes that I’ve lost track of all of them. Writing good prose is like having a slim, fit body. A lucky few can develop one with even seeming to try. For the rest of us, it’s an endless effort to keep off the flab.
Here is a list of my most memorable mistakes. If you’ve read about them in an earlier blog of mine, I apologise. I also mistakenly repeat things.

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The power of 'up to'

The biggest advertising strategy of the last twelve months (or more) has, I think, been the use of the phrase ‘up to’. It’s everywhere now in sales signs and adverts. ‘Up to 50% off!’, ‘Up to 70% off!’. You’d think that most people on seeing these signs must say to themselves ‘well, that doesn’t mean very much’ but retailers clearly don’t regard that as a problem. Based on how much it’s being used, companies in the U.K. seem to think it’s a sure winner for improving their sales. They’re confident that telling people that at least one of their five thousand items in stock will be 70% off in the upcoming sale, even though that single item has probably all the desirability and functionality of owning a deranged skunk, is an actual winning formula.

Are we missing something here? Are these companies, with their skilled and experienced staff, pointing us in a new direction? If using ‘up to’ is such a gold mine, should we be trying to use it in aspects of our own lives? Maybe the power of ‘up to’ can be used in our emotional relationships?

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Navigation and the Ladies Internation Rescue Organisation

It’s always a good thing for men and women to find ways to understand each other better. If done properly, good male/female communication can, in particular, save the bloke from endless arguments, cold silences and comments like ‘that’s stupid’, ‘you’re not listening’ and sentences beginning with ‘my mum was right...’. To help improve this, I thought I’d write a short article about navigation.

Imagine that you’re in your car with your dearly beloved - your lovely female partner without whom life would be an empty wasteland of loneliness and poor personal hygiene. You’re both in the car on your way to an important social event, a place that you both will reach in time, if all goes well, but there’s not a lot of room to spare. You’re driving along and you spot a side street. You realise that if you head down that side street, there’s a very good chance that you’ll end up on a road you know that’ll take you to the destination quicker. ‘Ahah!’ you think, ‘I’ll take that shortcut and I’ll have improved my knowledge of the area, speeded up my journey and my dearly beloved will be really grateful. We’ll be at the wedding/christening/graduation ceremony with time to spare. Hooray!’

I have three words of advice to give at this point:
Don’t do it!

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