Sunday 29 April 2012

Rude Dude Films

Although I intend to pull back on the amount of trailers I make now, I've decided that this little ident (featuring my wonderful son) will appear on all of them.

 Rude Dude Films!

Monday 16 April 2012

Alt-Fiction, Leicester, 14th April 2012

Although Alt-Fiction (an event run by Writing East Midlands) has been held in Derby for the past few years, I’ve never managed to attend. Since this year it was being held in Leicester (and organised by the indefatigable Adele Wearing and WEM’s Catherine Rogers, plus most of the Ubound crew), I went along.

I didn’t get there until 11, so I missed the first few panels but that was countered by greetings from the charming Catherine, Jay Eales and a nice hug from Adele. Martyn Taylor, a friend on Facebook, arrived soon after so we finally got to meet in person. I checked out the dealer room, which was a bit sparse - Factor Fiction had a stall (so I bought the Girly Comic compilation and Selina Lock gave me a badge and comic for Dude), as did Murky Depths and the local Waterstones - then went back to the bar, which was lively and full of noise and conversation. There, my only gripe with the whole event was exposed - lack of name tags. Whilst I recognised some people from Facebook, others I wasn’t quite sure of and could never pluck up the courage to speak to, though I should have. Anyway, I had a chat with Gary McMahon and said quick “hi’s” to Alison Littlewood and Fergus, Stephen Volk, Will Hill and Lou Morgan, then went into the Dragons Den panel, with Susan Sinclair (from my writing group) and Martyn. It was great fun - ‘how not to pitch a novel’ - though I’m pretty sure I actually watched something very similar to Conrad Williams’ opus - “Dracularseholes” - when I was reviewing for VideoVista.

Me & Johnny Mains

I skipped the open mic session and wandered into town, visited my favourite retro toyshop (and picked up some Pokemon figures for Dude and three Stormtroopers for my army) and met up with Sue Moorcroft when I got back. Sue & I have known each other since 1999, when we were both in a writing group in Kettering and her career has rocketed since - she writes chick-lit mainly (and it’s very, very good) but some of her students write speculative fiction so she came along to see what the scene was like (since I’m one of the few horror writers she knows). Johnny Mains came and got me and I went into his reading which was poorly populated - me, Conrad Williams, Tom Fletcher and Kate, the volunteer. Johnny’s story “The Tip” was very good and led onto a fascinating debate/discussion that was only curtailed by a “time’s up!”

I wanted to go into the Horror panel but it was chock-a-block, so Sue & I chatted in the bar before going into “Writing As A Day Job”, with Conrad and Nikki Valentine on the panel and Tom moderating. We stayed put, for Jay’s comics panel which featured Mark Chadbourn, Paul Cornell, Emma Vieceli and Selina and that was great fun, even if most of it went over my head (all I know about modern comics, I know from conversations with Jay, Selina and Stuart Young).

Me & Sue Moorcroft

Back to the bar and more conversations, then Sue & I left to go and have dinner together (the first time that’s happened in 13 years).

I love going to events like this, because I always come away feeling refreshed and energised about writing and creating and the genre as a whole. Plus it’s always nice to see old friends and make new ones - and I’ve missed out a lot of people above, so I should also mention Paul ‘Pablo Cheesecake’ Holmes, Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan, Richard Farren Barber, Kate Heubeck, Victoria and Rick and the ever pleasant Simon (“I thought you were in Barcelona”) Clark.

A great con, which I thoroughly enjoyed and the venue - The Phoenix Digital Arts Centre - was superb. Next year’s event has already been pencilled in and I’ll definitely be there.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Nostalgia alert - An 80s comic, found!

As regular readers of this blog might have noticed, I am something of a nostalgic (for further evidence, why not check here, here or here) and even though I very much live in the present (my 6-year-old son sees to that), I do like looking back. With eBay, 2nd hand bookshops and some terrific retro-shops that are springing up, it’s now easier than ever to put your hands on stuff you had through your childhood but have long-since-lost. This blog post is about one such item.

Years back (I now know it to have been 1980, when I was 11), I read a comic/magazine (a full version of a story) and really enjoyed it. I’ve been trying to remember key details for the last ten years or more, but all I had to go on was that it featured an octopus, in a skyscraper in New York and a character called Dum-Dum Dabroda. I knew that the artist was the same craftsman who drew “The Hitman” in Bullet, but that was as far as I got (I didn’t know his name).

Every now and again, I’d get inspired to investigate and search with what I remembered but nothing ever came up. Then, one day last week, I was looking up something about Bullet, a terrific comic from my early childhood and saw the phrase Red Dagger Books. Intrigued, I clicked the link and vague memories were stirred. I scanned down the titles and there, issue number nine, was my quest.

Terror In The Tall Tower was published in 1980, a compilation of the adventure which first appeared in Wizard Comics from issue 28, 28th September 1974 through to 28th January 1975. The artwork was by Denis McLoughlin and the cover art was by Ian Kennedy.

This is the Ballard Building, situated in Downtown Manhattan, New York, USA. It looked alright but what nameless terror lurks behind its walls? A terror that has kept the building empty for years! Young Don Ballard must find out what brings fear to its rooms and corridors - for Don has become the owner of The Ballard Building.

I got the octopus and the skyscraper right, I remembered some of the images as I saw them but I got the villain’s name wrong - he’s Dum- Dum Taborda, not Dum-Dum Dabroda.

Cover art from the October 26th 1974 issue of Wizard, by Denis McLoughlin

All excited, I immediately checked eBay and there was a copy on there, so I put in my bid and spent an anxious few days waiting to see if I’d won. I had, it was delivered to me earlier this week and I’m reading it now. I’m not going to lie and say it’s great literature but blimey, it’s bloody good fun!

(with thanks to Kelly’s Comics and the British Comics Art blog, for background information)

Monday 2 April 2012

Real-life locations - "The Mill"

Something I like to utilise a lot in my fiction is a sense of place - I believe that if you can make the location as realistic as possible, you can do pretty much whatever else you want and still keep the reader onside. To that end, most places in my stories are based extensively on real life.

Take “The Mill”, as an example (because I have photographs to illustrate this point - my mother didn’t raise a complete idiot). It’s all set in Gaffney, but the locations used are spread over Rothwell and Kettering, from the bereavement group meeting house (the Melton Road Community Centre, where my first writers group met), the café (on Newland Street) and Saskia’s house (my friend Pauline’s house) - all in Kettering, with Rothwell represented by The Mill itself (and if you take a walk down Shotwell Mill Lane, to the north of the town, there you will find the remains as described in the story). I don’t know what the mill was used for originally, or when it closed down, but it was long gone when I was kid, back in the late 70s/early 80s and we used to play war down there.

We went out for a walk on Sunday afternoon and followed some footpaths and ended up there. The last time I’d been down, a couple of years before I wrote the story, it was all overgrown and virtually impossible to get into. It’s still overgrown in parts now, but much more accessible so I took some pictures of the cellars as they are today. The memory I wrote from had no trees growing through the cellar floors, or grass to the brick edgings, which is why they don’t appear in “The Mill”.

So here they are, with Dude in place to give a sense of scale.

Matthew, standing on the "walkway" between the middle and right cellar.

Matthew, standing in front of the right cellar. The cellar on the far left was virtually impossible to reach.