1) SWANS BY THE PIER
I was walking back from a cafe one Spring morning, along the seafront, when I saw two swans a-swimming. This was unusual and striking. Sadly, one of my first thoughts was relief was no-one else was around, or some dumb kid would inevitably have started hurling stones at them. Whenever I see people throwing stones at birds - usually gulls - I confront them, so this moment of pleasure could so easily have turned ugly. Happily, it didn't. I trailed these swans along the shoreline for a while and filmed this video beside the Palace Pier. It's worth watching for the moment the pair of them turn around as one, to head back away from the shore. Shortly after the video was filmed, they flew off.
2) WONDERFUL LITERARY AGENT
Hello and thank you to Oli Munson of AM Heath - the best thing to happen to me all year. Blogged about that here in March. And here's a nice pic of (from left) Lavie Tidhar, Laura Lam, Oli and me, snapped by the mighty Scott K Andrews at August's Fantasy In The Court event at Goldsboro Books.
3) THRASH METAL GIGS
I don't go to all that many live shows these days, but when I do I'm seeing bands I love. So this year I finally got to see German legends Exumer supporting Brit delights Onslaught. Not to mention two of my favourite thrash bands, Destruction and Overkill, playing separate London shows. Perhaps the most momentous show of all was US death metal pioneers Possessed at London's Highbury Garage. Since this band split in 1990, I never expected to see them live. And yet there they are, fronted as before by Jeff Becerra, who was tragically paralysed from the waist down in a shooting. They were excellent and I was pleased to learn they're working on new material. Here's a blurry but representative pic I took towards the end of the set.
4) THUNDERBOLTS AND LIGHTNING
My favourite photo I took all year, in terms of capturing a split second. This was about 3am.
5) SHAUN T AND THE FOCUS T25
This was the year that one-man fitness-tornado Shaun T came into my life. Unfortunately, he arrived in July, at the peak of summer, when I decided to try his Focus T25 DVD routines and therefore also needed to buy a large electric fan. I've always known that endorphins are a writer's best friend, both in terms of physical and mental health - it's just that I haven't always put that wisdom into practice. Focus T25 is a brilliant way to stay active, with its (surprise surprise) 25-minute routines which send your endorphins sky-rocketing for the rest of the day. Each routine benefits from an on-screen Modifier Person, who performs simpler, easier versions of each move in case you need them. And for the first few days or weeks, you will need them. Perhaps most importantly of all, Shaun T is really charismatic and funny and motivational. He's the man you need to help you properly do this stuff. I really can't recommend buying the first T25 set (containing the Alpha and Beta packs) enough. This Vine captures one of Shaun's amusingly sadistic moments, followed soon after by the kind of high-energy exercise which threatens to make you keel over.
My folks celebrated their 50th anniversary in August, by returning to the church where they wed.
7) JAWS ON THE BEACH
You can't get any more immersive than that.
8) EPIC HOLIDAY
Took an unprecedented two-week to Menorca. Had no idea what to do with myself by the second week, but it was a tremendous gin-fest from beginning to end. One highlight was witnessing my other half Esther performing a spirited karaoke version of Psy's synth-pop hit Gentleman, while labouring under the misapprehension that the chorus went, "Motherfucker gentleman" rather than "Mother father gentleman". You've never seen children's ears covered so fast. Wish she'd let me upload the video.
9) FIGHTING FANTASY CONVENTION
I've loved the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks since I was a kid and previously blogged about them here. 2014 saw the inaugural Fighting Fantasy convention, organised by the remarkable Jonathan Green an extraordinary 32 years after the Puffin Books legend began with The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain. A resounding success both in terms of the great guests and the items on display such as original front-cover artwork (see below). As I think these first two pictures convey, I was firmly in fanboy mode while meeting the books' creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson.
10) BLOOD ON THE ALTAR
On December 6, as part of Brighton's DRILL festival, we saw a screening of Dario Argento's gory supernatural horror film Suspiria... in a church. Authorised blasphemy. Not only did this take place in a church, but the band Goblin, who soundtracked the movie, performed that soundtrack live in the church alongside the film. It's fair to say this was a pretty remarkable experience. Putting aside the joys of Goblin for a moment, you could hear every word of dialogue echoing high up by the church's high ceiling, as if dark angels were murmuring it back to us. There was a bar, too. Churches really have come on, these days.
So that's it for 2014. In the words of Frank Sinatra, it was a very good year. Work-wise, I've been writing the same novel (the title of which has the initials JSOTS, acronym fans) since March, while taking time out to once again act as judge for the British Fantasy Awards. I'm crossing my leathery, gnarled fingers when I tell you that this novel will be handed to agent Oli by the end of January. What happens after that is in the lap of Satan.
I didn't blog nearly as much as I would have liked this year. I plan to do better in 2015, so do bookmark or RSS or whatever-the-hell-it-is-that-you-do this place and swing by again.
If you'll excuse me, I'm heading sofa-ward to take the rest of New Year's Eve lying down, with Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted - a proof copy of which was one of my favourite presents this Christmas.
Happy New Year!
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