Monday, 31 December 2012

My 2012 In Ten Uneven Slices

Hello you!  GOD I LOVE YOUR FACE.

A good working year, 2012.  Broadly speaking, it was the year in which I tiptoed away from previously established franchises like Doctor Who and began to carve my own furrows, while continuing to collaborate with others on new things.

Even the most pro-active writer spends the majority of their time playing a big waiting game, which is only natural but can be frustrating.  By building their own mini empire, the writer can gain full control over at least one aspect of their career.  I don’t know if that empire should wholly consume the writer’s time, but I certainly dipped a foot into Kindle waters this year to see how that felt.  At the same time, I continued to make headway in TV and film.  Here are 10 slices of my 2012...

1) TWO MOVIES IN JULY
You wait decades to have a film out with your name attached, then two come along at once.  July 9 saw the UK DVD release of Stormhouse, the horror feature which I wrote and executive produced.  Interestingly for a British film, it had already been released on US DVD via Lionsgate in February (and Lionsgate’s trailer for the movie is definitely one of my highlights of the year, heading for a quarter of a million views.)  Censorship fans will be interested to hear that the two releases differ by literally one second, as the UK version is missing the c-word.  Not our decision, but very much the distributor’s prerogative in order to gain a ‘15’ certificate as opposed to an  ‘18’.


Later that month, The Man Inside enjoyed a Leicester Square premiere and a run in UK cinemas.  I script-edited this urban drama thriller, which was very much the brainchild of writer/director Dan Turner.  Boasting a very strong cast in Peter Mullan (who helped provide one of my British TV highlights of 2012 with Channel 4’s heartbreakingly uncompromising The Fear), Michelle Ryan, David Harewood and Ashley ‘Bashy’ Thomas, it is released for home cinema today.  Take a look at the DVD and the Blu Ray at Amazon UK, I says atcha.

2) NEW TV THING
In March, I met one of my favourite TV scriptwriters for an hour.  While that meeting was outwardly relaxed enough, there was the very obvious subtext of whether I could throw viable TV series ideas his way.  Forty-five minutes in, when nothing had made his eyes light up, I was starting to sweat.  Finally, 10 minutes from the end, I mentioned something which did the job.  Since then, we've been collaborating on the idea which now exists in development as a co-written pilot script.  This has, without question, been one of my favourite experiences of 2012.  Let's hope it goes the distance in 2013.

3) EVIL EYE
My latest spec feature script is a horror beast called, you guessed it, Evil Eye.  I polished it off this year and look forward to my agent Matthew Dench sending it around in 2013.  It's my favourite feature script of mine: a nasty and supernatural affair, so will be crossing fingers for it.

4) BEAST IN THE BASEMENT
During the Summer, I decided to see how the whole Kindle 'indie publishing' thing worked.  I wrote a 25,000-word novella called Beast In The Basement, based on an old TV spec script Happy Ever After.  I was pleased to discover that it worked better in prose: for me, prose's real USP is its ability to take the reader right inside character's heads in a very direct and immersive way, and that's what I wanted to do with Beast, using the present-tense first-person virtually throughout.

Caroline Fish's wonderful book cover was such a classy finishing touch.  In case you were wondering, that demonic thing on the cover is an actual 3D, physical paper model, with the book's title repeatedly typed upon it.  My love for it is unconfined.  

Beast In The Basement received great reviews at fast-reacting, author-friendly sites like The British Fantasy Society, StarburstEl Dink, The Eloquent Page, Byte The Book, The Fiction Stroker and The Reluctant Geek.  I'm indebted to pretty much everyone who reviewed the book, whether on a site like those or at Amazon, for keeping spoilers under wraps.  No mean feat.  

Thanks to the magic of Twitter, Beast also opened doors at a traditional publishing company: an opportunity which I'll be investigating further in 2013.

5) A SINCERE WARNING ABOUT THE ENTITY IN YOUR HOME
Beast In The Basement came out fighting in September.  The following month, I released this 10,000-word short story.  This was perhaps unwise in terms of timing, coming so soon after Beast, but sometimes evil just needs to get out.  One of the questions people often asked about Beast, before reading it, was "How scary is it?".  I found that question quite hard to answer without spoiling the story (part of me suspects that Beast's old-school horror title has perhaps put off suspense-thriller readers, for instance, who might otherwise enjoy it.)  

With A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home, I wanted to write something which might justify me answering that same question with "Yeah, it's scary".  Or at least I hope it is.  The feedback has certainly suggested as much.  Whereas Beast was about things like personal responsibility, censorship, hypocrisy and revenge, A Sincere Warning... is a ghost story, pure and simple.  I don't believe stories always have to be about Big Things.  No doubt there are a couple of themes floating about in there, but they're most likely highly unpleasant.  Because I wanted the artwork to be simple and lo-fi, reflecting the story's assumed form, I created the cover myself with design help from John Higgs.  That was quite the morning, sitting there cutting letters out of a newspaper and gluing them into place.  The lack of an author's name on the cover was deliberate, as was the fact that the ebook starts immediately without the usual preamble blurb.

A Sincere Warning... was written as a letter to you, the reader, from the previous resident at your home.  With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to also offer an alternative, premium edition: an actual letter, personalised to you and snail-mailed to your home!  Why not?  That's got to be fun, right?  I honestly expected one in 500 buyers of the ebook to order these Paper Editions, but initially the Kindle and Paper Editions were neck-and-neck in terms of sales!  I reacted to this unexpected demand by grabbing the URL ScaryLetter.com.  I also grabbed ScaryLetters.com, so perhaps there may be another Scary Letter story in 2013/4, who knows...

6) LIBERTY CLOTHES
This is my latest TV spec pilot, a non-genre piece about a female drug addict who leaves prison and struggles to stay clean and reconnect with her addiction counsellor husband and embittered teenage daughter.  Again, this will be waved under the noses of production companies in 2013.

7) #RECVIRUS
Ah!  Interesting one, this.  To celebrate the UK DVD release of [REC] Genesis, the third film in the excellent Spanish horror series, I worked alongside Fetch Publicity to create a ludicrous and ambitious piece of Twitter theatre on August 31.  It involved over 20 'performers': Twitter folk such as Emily BoothTony Lee, Michael Moran, Pete Shorney and Richard Dinnick, who mostly became demonically possessed during the story's seven-hour (!) running time, switching their avatars to depict horrific versions of themselves and tweeting all kinds of Satanic nonsense.

I planned the narrative in advance, step by step, minute by minute.  I also became one of the performers and pretended to be throwing a party in my flat that day.  At midday, I scoffed at a YouTube warning from Fetch Publicity not to touch their infected [REC] Genesis screener discs, and became infected when I did just that.  So did my girlfriend Esther and all the party guests who turned up, one by one.  The story climaxed in the early evening, when retired Spanish exorcist @HolyHombre, a made-up Twitter character I had based on the priest from [REC] Genesis and introduced earlier that week (apologies again to those who liked him and were disappointed to learn he wasn't real), heroically came to the rescue of the final guest, scream queen Emily Booth, in the building which was now under quarantine lockdown.

Oh God, it was a hoot to do.  A nervewracking hoot, mind.  Would all 20 performers do what they were supposed to do, at the right time?  Would any or all of them back out at the last minute?  I'm proud to say none of them did and they were all brilliant.  The story went pretty much like clockwork.  The impact was really hammered home not only by those gruesome avatars, not to mention a few tweeted-as-if-from-the-scene photographs equally doctored by the geniuses at GV Film

At one point that day, #RECVirus trended in the UK, no small feat for an indie 'production'.  I was really pleased by how many people enjoyed it and even joined in, many following the whole thing from start to finish. Of course, plenty of people either ignored or actively disliked it, which is fine: it was, after all, a bit much.  When you follow folk on Twitter, chances are you're not banking on an epic, sustained piece of theatre.  That's generally not what you signed up for and I could understand why some might believe such a promotion to be an indulgent abuse of the medium.  It might well have been, but that's certainly no reason not to do it, just the once.  I doubt I'd use my Twitter account in that way again, but #RECVirus was a fun anomaly and a successful blast.  You can see the Storified tweets here

8) DEAD ROOTS
I've always liked comics but never got around to doing much writing for them (beyond the Eleventh Doctor story Earworm for Doctor Who Adventures magazine, which you can read for free here on this site.)  This changed in 2012 when smart and switched-on editor Mike Garley got in touch about a new zombie anthology series called Dead Roots he was putting together.  To be perfectly honest, I very much suffer from post-28 Days Later zombie fatigue, but that merely posed more of a challenge to try and find a different story to tell.  The result is the seven-page Consumed, with brilliant art from Sarah Gordon.  You'll get a chance to see it in 2013 and I hope you 'enjoy'.  It's really quite grim.  See below for a preview of Page One, minus speech bubbles and wordage.



9) DOCTOR WHO: UNIT DOMINION
This epic Big Finish production emerged in October.  A four-hour mini series of audio plays which I wrote alongside Nicholas Briggs, Dominion stars the mighty Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor and The Thick Of It/Inbetweeners star Alex McQueen as the mysterious Future Doctor.  There are also a several popular Big Finish characters involved, such as Elizabeth Klein and Raine Creevy, plus various new military types.  It was so exciting to be involved with such an ambitious project, create new monsters like the Skyheads, Lava Spiders and marauding Cubes, and of course write for not just one, but two Doctors.  I've been delighted by positive fan response to this audaciously globe-spanning affair and it's very nice indeed, as we enter Doctor Who's 50th anniversary year, to have a brand new release on the shelves.

10) SAFARI
Top genre site Bloody Disgusting let the lion out of the bag in October, reporting on the presence of a British feature film called Safari at the American Film Market.  This is a script I've written for Round Table Productions, working up a fully fleshed story from their original brief and having a great time collaborating with script editor Ellis Freeman.  I shouldn't say much more about it at this point, other than to confirm that it will be a horror film and is almost certainly much what you might think it is from that title!  Gnash, munch, roar.  We hope to have it shooting in 2013.

OTHER SLICES AND OH DEAR GOD, WHAT NEXT?
In 2012, I also drew a Dalek for charity and was very happy when it sold for £38, contributed to Lee 'Budgie' Barnett's Fast Fiction Challenge alongside the lofty likes of Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Warren Ellis, managed to find time to write two large pieces for my beloved Doctor Who Magazine (The A-Z Of Dread for the Halloween issue and the Review Of 2012, in the current issue at the time of writing) and became convinced that my building was on fire in the dead of night, thanks to the nefarious and excellent writings of John Higgs, whose KLF and Brandy books you really must read before everyone's doing it and you end up looking like some late and bedraggled copycat.

What next, for 2013?  Some of the chunks above, like New TV Thing, Liberty Clothes and Safari, are obviously ongoing.  I'm slowly but surely writing two non-fiction ebooks.  The first is a big old pep-talk called 101 Writers' Fears And How To Deal With Them, while the second is a presently-untitled collection of my favourite articles I wrote as a rock journalist, back in the mists of time.  This will include such merry tales as the time I found myself surrounded by angry men with submachine guns in Vatican City.

101 Writers' Fears will be finished first.  I may run a pre-order scheme for it: perhaps something which allows you to order it in advance at a reduced price.  We.  Shall.  See.  Drop me a line and register interest in such a scheme, if you feel moved to do so.  And as ever, keep your eyeballs trained on this very blog, as well as my official Facebook page, my Google+ and my Twitter.  

Have the finest of all possible New Years.  If you're a writer, then please ensure you attack 2013 with maximum zest and passion, or I shall hunt you down and physically force you into the Devil's toast rack.  And you won't like that.

                                                                         * * *

Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My 10,000-word short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-cost ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My horror novella Beast In The Basement is a dark, twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the countryside, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Read it before someone spoilers you!  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  More details here.

My Amazon-acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else is out now on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

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