Friday 30 January 2015

"Drive" - free ebook (for a limited period)

Chris Teague, head honcho at Pendragon Press, has decided to make my novella "Drive" free to download (across ebook platforms) for today and tomorrow only.

So if you were waiting for a chance to read what Peter Tennant, in Black Static, called "a finely tuned tale that delivers all the thrills it says on the tin" (and a novella he included in his annual round-up of the year), here's your chance!

“Drive takes you for a journey down the darkest alleyways of human savagery.  
A fast paced, high tension thriller that delivers on all fronts....”
- Jim Mcleod, The Ginger Nuts Of Horror

"Drive is a gripping, tense urban noir with prose as tight as a snare drum..."
- Paul D. Brazill, Guns Of Brixton.

“Mark West writes the kind of fiction that gets under the skin where it lies dormant until you turn out the lights ...”
- Dave Jeffery, author of the Necropolis Rising series

"A crowd pleaser, a horror story set in the urban landscape and tapping into our fears of what could so easily go wrong in this setting, a finely tuned tale that delivers all the thrills it says on the tin..."
- Peter Tennant, Black Static magazine

Did I mention it was free...?

Monday 19 January 2015

King For A Year

Last April, I wrote a blog post called "From Little Acorns..." talking about a new project I was putting together.  At the time, Stephen King had been on my mind for a few weeks and I was having a Facebook discussion with Ross Warren, Anthony Cowin, Andrew Murray and Alison Littlewood and we started talking about our personal top 10 favourite King books.  Then I posted this...

Here's an idea - Ross, Anthony, Andrew, Alison - how about next year, we declare it a Stephen King year. Twelve of us, we each pick one book and then blog a review/essay on it and link back to each others blog.  What do you think?

They all thought it was a good idea, more and more people wanted to get involved, Ross suggested we set up a dedicated blog for it and Willie Meikle gave us the perfect title with "King For A Year".

Alison later tweeted me "from little acorns..." and the blog continued to pick up strength as 2014 wore on and last week, I filled the final - 52nd - slot which will be Dan Howarth writing about "Everything's Eventual".

The third review - Jenny Barber on "The Dark Tower VII" - was published today, following well received entries from Anthony Cowin (on "The Shining") and Stephen Bacon on the "Night Shift" collection.

For those who haven't checked out the blog yet, it has a very simple concept - the writer picks their favourite  King book (novel, novella, whatever) and writes a review of it.  52 writers, 52 reviews, all posted during 2015.

I haven't read any beyond the end of January (most - including my own review, of "Pet Sematary" - haven't been written yet) but I like what I've seen so far and I think there'll be plenty to entertain people over the year.

So if you're a King fan, enjoy his books (or like the writing of particular reviewers), I hope you'll dip in and see what people have to say.  Most of all, I hope the blog entertains you.

To whet your appetite, here's the list of confirmed reviewers:

Anthony Cowin, Stephen Bacon and Jenny Barber (all now published)
Wayne Parkin, Matthew Craig, Neil Williams, Donna Bond, Mihai Adascalitei, Willie Meikle, Dean M. Drinkel, Maura McHugh, Gary McMahon, Kevin Bufton, James Everington, Selina Lock, Kit Power, Rowan Coleman, Adele Wearing, John Llewellyn Probert, Lynda E. Rucker, Shaun Hamilton, Mark West, Kim Talbot Hoelzli, David T. Wilbanks, Jay Eales, Nadine Holmes, Thana Niveau, Alison Littlewood, Phil Sloman, Dave Jeffery, Steven Savile, Ray Cluley, Johnny Mains, Sharon Ring, Liz Barnsley, Jim Mcleod, James Bennett, Christian Saunders, Frazer Lee, Carole Johnstone, Andrew Murray, Cate Gardner, Conrad Williams, Robert Mammone, Ross Warren, Sheri White, Robert Spalding, Colin F. Barnes, Simon Bestwick, Charlene Cocrane, Edward Lorn, Dan Howarth

Check out the blog at this link

Friday 9 January 2015

Random Happiness...

Post-Christmas, it's been chilly in England and Dude & I have made the most of it, exploring the winter wonderland of the Rec and Mounts.  Last weekend, he was thrilled to discover that some of the puddles there had frozen over and he had a fine old time, walking on the ice and breaking bits of it up with a stick.  I remember doing the same thing when I was a kid but this time - not wanting to slip on the ice (blimey, how old am I?) - I stood off to the side, watching him and it was great to vicariously enjoy his delight.

* * *
As regular readers of this blog will know, I value my friendships.  This week, there was a programme on BBC Radio 2 that featured Sir Roger Moore (one of my all-time heroes, as if you needed reminding) and I was touched by the fact that several people contacted me to let me know.

Equally heartening was the picture my friend Gard Goldsmith posted to Facebook, featuring himself pointing at a box of Mark West wine (yep, it's a real thing).

* * *
I got an email this week from an editor, inviting me to appear in a themed anthology he was putting together.  That's always a very nice thing to have happen and, since I intend to do a lot more writing this year than I did last year, I chose my element of the theme, thanked him profusely and then thought 'oh bugger, what if I can't think of a story?'

Almost as soon as I thought that, I got an initial image that steadily grew during the day and when I went out for my evening walk - bundled up against the cold, Jarre pounding through my headphones - the whole thing slotted together nicely over the 3 miles.  It's always lovely when that happens (I wish it did more often, truth be told), let's hope it translates to the page as well.

* * *
"Drive" continues to pick up good notices and mentions in Year End Reviews, which makes me very happy indeed.  I'm keeping the section in My Creative Year post updated with the news.

Monday 5 January 2015

Movie miniatures, by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)

As regular readers will know (from my previous miniatures post here, as well as other behind-the-scenes film posts which can be found here, here (about Return of the Jedi)herehere and here), I am fascinated by movie miniatures and how they can trick the viewer into completely believing the world the film-maker presents to them.

When I wrote my first miniatures post, I didn't want to talk about the ILM work on "Star Wars" as it's been so well documented in the past (though I couldn't resist one) but having enjoyed the process of researching and writing it, I realised I couldn't ignore ILM in this area.  So here then are some fantastic examples of miniature magic (most of which come from the 80s).
original ILM logo
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) was founded in 1975 by George Lucas to produce the special effects shots for "Star Wars", since the major studios had closed their departments down.  Originally in Van Nuys, California, it moved to San Rafael during pre-production on "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) in 1978 before moving to the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco in 2005.  By this time, ILM was almost completely digital, having sold off its miniatures department - renamed the Kerner Optical company (after the building it was housed in) - though they continued a working relationship before Kerner went bankrupt.

ILM has won 15 Academy Awards (nominated 29 times) and 15 BAFTAs (nominated 17 times).

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982, directed by Steven Spielberg)
Dennis Muren - visual effects supervisor
E.T.'s ship lands in the forest clearing
Poltergeist (1982, directed by Tobe Hooper)
Richard Edlund - visual effects supervisor
Building the Freeling's house, as used in the climax of the film
Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984, directed by Steven Spielberg)
Dennis Muren - visual effects supervisor
Although some of the mine car sequence was shot full-size, the scope required by the film dictated it use miniatures.  Working backwards, from deciding the camera size (they used a regular Nikon still camera, adapted to shoot celluloid), Muren realised they could make the sets not only very small but also very cheaply - all of the rock formations are created by painting aluminium foil.
Putting together the set
Left - the converted Nikon and the miniature mine-cart
Right - Tom St. Amand stop-motion animates Indy, Willie and Short Round
Top - frame from the film, as Indy, Willie and Short Round investigate the caves (nicknamed the Jaws shot, for obvious reasons)
Bottom - combining a Frank Ordaz matte painting with a foreground miniature
Back To The Future (1985, directed by Robert Zemeckis)
Ken Ralston - visual effects supervisor
Steve Gawley (left) model-shop supervisor and Ira Keeler, with the miniature DeLorean used in the end sequence
Always (1989, directed by Steven Spielberg)
Bruce Nicholson - visual effects supervisor
Most of the aerial work and all of the fire effects were done in miniature.  Check out the camera car, something of an ILM stalwart!
Back To The Future 3 (1990, directed by Robert Zemeckis)
Scott Farrar - visual effects supervisor
Whilst the train sequences with the actors were filmed on full-sized props, most of the work was completed with miniatures.  And good use was made of the ILM car!
Star Wars: Special Edition (1997, directed by George Lucas)
visual effects supervised by John Dykstra (original credit)

Okay, so I couldn't resist one "Star Wars" entry...
Lorne Peterson brushes up the Sandcrawler miniature, re-furbished for the special edition

 And to finish (for now), here's George Lucas posing with some of the miniatures created for the original "Star Wars" trilogy, housed in the Lucasfilm Archives (c. 1983)