Saturday, 24 August 2019

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

What an awesome night out I had in Bicester last Sunday - significantly better than many of the ones I had when I was actually living there. I think this is one benefit of moving around - you make new friends wherever you go but the ones you made where you were before welcome you back with open arms when you return.

The pessimist in me might suggest that people were only so pleased to see me because having been absent for almost two years they might have forgotten what a pain in the arse I am! The optimist in me hopes that's not the case and I am not actually one of those people who gets gets described as "alright in small doses" behind their back. I'm sure there is an element of absence making the heart grow fonder but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I had chosen this particular Sunday to revisit my old stamping ground after receiving an invitation to a Christening. My friends, Anne and Mark, had recently had a new baby, something that in itself had been news to me due to my sparse use of social media these days. I had completely missed the fact that Anne had been pregnant with baby Bevyn and that she had given birth until a chance meeting in Sainsbury in Bicester a couple of months ago. When I saw her pushing a buggy with a baby inside I asked whose baby it was. When she replied "mine" I realised how out of touch I am. But it was a nice surprise. Sometimes it's nice not to know everything that's going on so going off radar is not necessarily a bad thing.

Thankfully she wasn't offended so when the invite came along I was only too delighted to accept. When it later transpired that my dear friend Laura was celebrating her birthday out on the same evening, I knew I had picked the right date to return home.

The Christening itself was lovely, as these things always are, giving me a chance to reconnect with a lot of people I hadn't seen in a very long time. I can't even try to mention everyone here, there are so many, and if I try I am  bound to offend the one person I'll forget so quite simply, thank-you everyone I spent time with that afternoon. And, yes, Funky Mike, I have subscribed to your YouTube channel!

It was effortless to slip so easily back into conversations with people even after years of absence and if that's not a true test of long standing friendship, I don't know what is.

In the evening, after what I believe is colloquially known as a "cheeky Nando's"  I went to the karaoke at The White Hart, a night I founded over a decade ago when the pub was about half the size it is now. Today it is in the capable hands of Charlee and the night was everything I had hoped it would be. The drink flowed as I enjoyed moments with more friends of so many years standing. It was one of those nights that you hope will never end and without doubt the best night I have had out this year. Again I reflected that time doesn't dampen friendship, as the time apart I've spent from these people has made the bond stronger if anything. We may not have spoken and my fleeting Facebook time again means I may not have liked their statuses or commented on their posts as I simply haven't seen them but as I've said time and time again, that isn't how I think friendship ought to be measured. It's what you do in the real world that counts. And last Sunday I got to spend quality time with some really special people who know who they are. I promise I won't leave it so long next time.

Now I am back home in Evesham, the new town I've come to call home and I went out last night to enjoy a few drinks with some of the friends I have made here these past couple of years. It's still early days and I don't have a shared history with the people here, but I firmly believe if you're friendly, approachable and make an effort to integrate, local people wherever you go will accept you, and you can build friendships with them. But you do have to make that effort, even if it's daunting walking into a new pub for the first time or entering a playground to pick up the kids at a new school where you know absolutely no-one. I was bold on my first day at Jamie's new school and walked straight up to two people and started talking to them. We're still chatting two years on. It's like anything in life - you have to put the effort in and step out of your comfort zone sometimes. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have the amazing back catalogue of friends I have built up through my life, moving from place to place, job to job and pub to pub! If you're reading this, chances are I met you somewhere along this amazing journey we call life and if you've been a part of mine - thank-you!

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Devon delights

We're enjoying a well deserved break down in Devon this week and I do feel justified in saying well deserved. It's a phrase I see bandied about rather a lot but everyone in the family has worked really hard this year at work and school to move things forward and we really have earned this trip.

I know I haven't posted endless details of what we've been doing all over Facebook but seriously who wants to see all that constantly anyway? I could post endlessly about how well the kids did at parent's evening, how well my latest book's doing and all that gubbins, but honestly, do people really want to see all that stuff? Too much of that gets you unfollowed faster than you can #hashtag your latest check in of where you're having your dinner - yes we get it - you're eating out tonight whilst the rest of us are at home. Good for you.

This is why I rarely post to Facebook at all now, let's be honest it's all getting a bit old hat. I'd far rather chew the fat with my neighbours in the street or with a few pals down the pub than document the minutiae of my daily life online. I probably post once or twice a week now - there is also this blog of course, but my contributions are increasingly rare - that's what a busy life does for you. I'm only writing this now because I've found the time late at night on holiday (fuelled by a local brew I picked up from Skinner's brewery in Truro).

I've been on a bit of a fitness drive lately, determined not to allow my waist size to keep up with my age any longer so have been doing ten laps, twice a a day of Charity Brook park on my bike. I was worried I might lose the slight fitness gain I have made due to not being able to cycle whilst away but need not have worried. Ilfracombe is very hilly and so are many other places we have visited. There are steep climbs everywhere which is just the job to keep things in check. This is just as well considering the inevitable seaside diet of fish and chips and ice cream.

We've been eating out most evenings finding some really nice eateries in the area but I have been again annoyed by the increasingly ubiquitous "skin on fries" that seem to be cropping everywhere, even when not described as such. I think it started off being seen as upmarket and trendy in posh restaurants that didn't want to refer to them as just chips, but everyone's jumped on the bandwagon now. Personally I just think these places just can't be arsed to peel their potatoes properly. It seems I am in a minority with this opinion so I suppose I must just be being fussy. Thankfully we found a lovely place to eat tonight in Georgeham tonight called The Rock Inn which offered perfect hand cooked chips with not a piece of skin or an eye in sight! Bravo Rock Inn, the 5 star Tripadvisor review will be along at some point (if I ever get around to it).

It's the third time in the last decade we've holidayed in this area and there is so much to enjoy. We've had a day on Croyde Beach (my third favourite in Britain) where Jamie famously ran into the sea fully clothed as a one-year-old, followed by a walk up to nearby Baggy Point. We've done the tunnel beaches in Ilfracombe and explored the stunning Lynton/ Lynmouth area. The views along the coastal paths around there are truly breathtaking.

We walked all the way down from Lynton to Lynmouth and had planned to take the cliff railway back up but the queue for it was packed. This railway incidentally is incredibly environmentally friendly - and invented by the Victorians long before saving the planet became a pressing issue. The whole thing ingeniously runs on water. So we decided to walk up the path which whilst not quite a sheer cliff face was more challenging than anything I've encountered back home in Worcestershire, with the possible exception of the Malverns. It was worth it, though. I had caved in to temptation and had a cream tea shortly beforehand so this trek helped to undo that sin.

I do so love this part of the world and have a long standing ambition to walk the entire length of the South West Coast path which runs from Poole to Minehead. Believe it or not this is a stunning 630 miles long! Obviously I can't do this anytime soon with two young lads to look after but in about a decade or so, I fancy the idea of doing this one summer over a couple of months. I could walk about  ten miles a day and stay in a different seaside town every night. What an adventure that would be!

In the meantime, I shall leave you with a piccie of the boys enjoying the beach, and I hope to see you all soon.

A postcard from Devon.
Since I can't be arsed to send real ones any more.

Cheers,
Jason

Monday, 25 March 2019

Time Bubble Movie - Casting

Since my last post, Ross and I have been working away getting the Time Bubble script to the point where we are now confident we can bring the book to life. One of the most common questions I've been asked by fans of the book since I announced our plans is "You're not going to ruin it by changing everything are you?"

The short answer to that is - no. Obviously we have to make a few tweaks to take into account that a book and a film are two very different mediums. These are for the most part very minor details that you'll barely even notice. Other than that this will be a pretty faithful adaption of the book you know and love.

You're read the book...
...now be part of the movie!

Most of the changes are largely cosmetic and don't impact on the plot at all. For example, I've made the teens eighteen rather than seventeen - primarily because it gives us the scope to cast some older actors. It should also avoid any criticism of the fact that these teenagers do have and talk about sexual relationships. This was something that was picked up on in some reviews of the original book, presumably by people who had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager! I don't want that can of worms opened up again, so eighteen they are! Other than that I can assure you that their characters will be true to their original portrayals.

This brings us on to where we currently are, which is pre-casting. Now I know what you are thinking - we haven't even done the crowdfunding yet so aren't we getting ahead of ourselves? Well not really,  and here's why. In order for this crowdfunding project to succeed, we have to demonstrate that we are serious about making this movie and have done some solid groundwork. Putting faces to some of the leading characters will be key to that. Not only will it allow us to design some pre-promotional material featuring the cast, it will also enable us to do a little pre-filming to produce a trailer than we can then include on the crowdfunding page. All of this will help build confidence in the project.

Having more people invested in the project can only help the crowdfunding too - we need to get the message out to as many people as possible and I am sure any actors we pre-cast will be only too eager to help spread the word. After all they are going to have a paid role at the end of it.

The profiles of the main characters are are looking to cast are up now on StarNow and can be found here: StarNow - Time Bubble Casting (add link). Those of you familiar with the books will already know all about these characters but for those who aren't there are handy bios of each.

We will be holding auditions on Tuesday April 16th in Bicester so if you have any actor friends who might be interested in auditioning please encourage them to do so. Ideally they should apply through the StarNow site rather than to me directly, however I am more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have.

I should also point out that the film is going to filmed primarily in Oxfordshire so it would be help to be local to the area.

To say these are exciting times would be an understatement! More updates soon...

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The Time Bubble - The Movie

Apologies for the lack of recent posts but it has been an incredibly busy, yet rewarding few months on the writing front.

Firstly, I finished and published Class of '92 on the 30th December. This has been an incredibly successful launch, with several hundred copies sold already and a massive boost to the rest of the range as a result. This has meant that January has been my most successful month to date. To be at a point where I have more income coming in each month than I had in my last full time job feels pretty special. I'm so glad I didn't listen to those early doubters with their "don't give up the day job" advice!

It hasn't all been wine and roses and I have to say that there were times when I was writing Class of '92 when I had my doubts (we creative types all have them). But I knuckled down to it and burned the midnight oil, or more accurately the midnight Merlot on more occasions than I can remember as I was determined to get it right. There are authors out there who are churning out several books a year but I prefer to take my time and I won't put something out until I'm completely happy with it.

Judging by the feedback I have had - and I don't just mean reviews but all the private messages (thank-you so much for them - I love hearing from my readers and reply to every one), that extra time was well worth it. I can't remember a book being better received than this one. Clearly tapping into the whole 1990s nostalgia thing was a good move.

Now on to my current project. I have not started a new book yet. I have several different ideas I am toying with but nothing I am ready to start on just now. Instead my focus throughout January has been on turning The Time Bubble into a script. This is something which I have found immensely enjoyable. Writing scripts is not something I have ever done professionally, but I do have a lot of history behind me in this area.


Coming to a movie theatre near you soon?

Well over thirty years ago now, back in school, my friend Francis and I started writing our own little plays in exercise books as an alternative to paying attention in boring lessons. The characters were all people we knew indulging in extremely libellous activities. No-one was immune - from fellow students to teachers to various celebrities of the day, These plays carried on throughout college and into my twenties and often verged into the realms of time travel in various ludicrous and humorous scenarios.

I even showed one of them to a famous film director once, the legendary Roy Boulting who lived in my village and used to come into the shop where I worked every day to buy his copy of The Times and 20 Dunhill International. He did actually read it and was very kind in his feedback, suggesting I was a promising newcomer. In reality it probably came across as juvenile crap and he was just being polite. I was only 19 at the time after all. That was as far as things went back in those heady days of 1989 because due to various other important teenage commitments I had at the time such as work, the pub, and trying to get off with girls, my script writing career got put on hold at that point. For about three decades.

Now that I'm turning The Time Bubble into a script, I'm reminded of those days and how different writing a script is to writing a novel. There are things that you can do in a novel that you can't do in a script - for example, showing people's feeling and motivations through their inner thoughts can be done easily in a book - not so easily on screen. This is just one difference. So it certainly isn't just a case of cutting and pasting the dialogue out of the book into the script - that's not enough. Like with everything I do - if I'm going to do something I'm going to do it properly.

As I mentioned above, I have found the process very enjoyable and I do feel it plays to my strengths. I have always found the most difficult parts of writing novels the bits where I have to describe a scene or a person's appearance. This does not come naturally to me even though it's one of the first things they teach you on creative writing courses - so I am told. Dialogue, however, flows onto the page, especially the humorous bits. That's why you get so many scenes in my books with Kent and the other drinkers in the pub. These scenes may not always advance the plot very far, if at all, but I just love writing them. It's breaking the rules but I've never been one for convention. Maybe I should just write a sitcom set in a pub.

When this script is finished, which won't be much longer, the real challenge will begin - getting it made into a film. I have been in discussion for a couple of years now with Ross Arrowsmith, a talented young film maker in Bicester, about doing this but for one reason or another we've not been able to look at it until now because we've both been too busy with other projects. One of the biggest projects Ross has been involved in has been producing the excellent sitcom In Other News which if you've not seen it, is well worth going over to YouTube to check out now. Here's a link to one of the episodes: In Other News Series 1, Episode 1

Ross and his team crowdfunded this project, raising several thousands pounds to produce it. I believe that we can successfully do the same for The Time Bubble, particularly with the large existing fan base I have built up. I know everyone's asking for money these days but I am sure that there are a lot of Time Bubble fans out there who would love to see a polished, professional production of the story. Crowdfunding isn't simply a case of saying "we want to make a film, please give us your money" - we would want to give something back. So for example, contributing twenty pounds might get you a signed DVD on release, a larger amount might get you an invite to the premiere, or your name in the credits. It is all very early days and Ross and I need to sit down and work out in fine detail what we need before we start the process.

The biggest expense is likely to be paying actors and I think it's very important to have professionals on board. I certainly don't want this to look like some amateur production - I value my work too highly for that and so does Ross.

There were other routes I could have gone down with this - such as trying to sell the script to a film studio but I love the idea of working with Ross and doing this ourselves. I am always seeking new challenges and have reinvented myself many times - becoming a successful entertainer and then a successful writer after deciding the rat race wasn't for me. If the dedication and will is there, there's no reason why I can't add scriptwriter and producer to my CV. The beauty of the internet age that we now live in is that there is virtually nothing you can't do yourself if you are determined enough to succeed.

Your feedback and support on this would be hugely appreciated.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The North West

The annual Ayres family holiday is in full swing and this year we are up in the North West - Hesketh Bank, near Preston, to be precise.

That might not sound like the most glamorous of holiday destinations but there is method in my madness. Whilst I may love Cornwall and Tenby and all those other tried and tested places, they don't expand my horizons and it's a desire of mine to see as much of these islands we call home as I can. This is quite a challenge. Britain looks pretty titchy on the world map, but there's so much of it!

I'd like to say I saw a lot of it when I was working for Nielsen and cruising round the country in the company car, which sounds glamorous, but really it isn't. I could tell you I've been to Thetford, Faversham, Blandford and hundreds of other places, but the truth is, in many cases I saw nothing much of these places at all. In most cases it amounted to driving to some nondescript office building on the local industrial estate, spending the afternoon in a conference room and then booking into the Holiday Inn on the ring road for a riveting evening of pure soullessness. This can hardly be classed as seeing the world.

Rejecting the rat race at the tender age of 35 has enabled me to open my eyes and enjoy the country properly, hence our ever changing holiday destinations. I like to pick an area and explore, with something for everyone. I want to give the kids a few cultural experiences, but you have to strike the right balance, so for every day in a museum or out exploring the countryside, it's only fair to have one on the beach or at a theme park too.

I picked Hesketh Bank as a good central location for exploring an area of Britain I haven't really spent much time in before. We are roughly halfway between Blackpool and Liverpool. two places I had varying reasons for wanting to visit, and close to Southport and the beaches on Merseyside too.

A bit of forward planning never goes amiss so after arriving at our cottage we headed out for dinner at the rather delightful Cock and Bottle pub in Tarleton, which I found on Tripadvisor. You know when you go out for a meal and everything it just absolutely perfect? Well this place ticked all the boxes. It's just the little things really - like the chips were homemade, as were Ollie's chicken goujons and Jamie's burger. My steak was sublime. When you compare somewhere like this to the generally dreadful Hungry Horse type places back home, well there's just isn't any comparison.

 On Sunday we went to Southport but the weather wasn't very good so it wasn't a beach day. Just as well really, as the sea was about five miles away which was reminscent of Weston-Super-Mare. We really must try to time our visits better around the tides. The rest of the resort was pretty decent - there is a lovely pier, devoid of all the usual tourist tat, with a wonderful arcade at the end full of fully working pre-decimalisation machines. You have to buy some old pennies to play them, and it's all great fun. And of course, there are all the usual things you associate with the seaside, like fairground rides and fish and chips, which is what we had for our tea.

Jamie's got Ollie in his sights on the dodgems at Southport.

On Monday I returned to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the first time since 1981, so to all intents it was my first visit. I wasn't sure what to expect as to be honest, driving through Blackpool en route, I felt the area looked extremely run down. Thankfully that didn't apply to the park, which had more than enough to do. We were there eight hours and didn't manage to go on every ride.

It's funny, people go on about the big name rides, but by far the most stressful experience for me was on the relatively old Grand National ride. This is an old wooden rollercoaster, and unlike the more modern fast and smooth rides, this old coaster shakes the absolute bones of you as it goes over the jumps. It was the only time I felt uncomfortable on the day.

We probably did more at this park than at any other we have been to, largely because the children are now old enough (and more importantly, tall enough) to go on nearly all the rides.

On Tuesday we visited Liverpool. This is one of the very few cities in England I had yet to visit, and one I have always wanted to. I have to say, I am very impressed by all the regeneration that's been done by the riverside and we spent plenty of time there, including a long stint in the Museum of Liverpool. learning all about the docks that previously stood on the site.

Of course, a visit to the famous Cavern Club was in order, even if it is shamelessly touristy. There was a busker outside singing Oasis numbers which felt slightly out of place, but even so, there is a great atmosphere down the street.

This is actually outside the Cavern Pub,
opposite the Cavern Club, but who's quibbling?

One other thing I did, which is probably more off the usual tourist track was visit the site of the former soap, Brookside. This is now just a normal close with normal people living in the houses which is just as well as I had no desire to get shot, stabbed, blown up, kidnapped, be brainwashed by a religious cult, struck down by a mysterious virus, become a lesbian, or have a helicopter crash on me while I was there.

One thing I noticed was that the close is much smaller than it seemed on TV. If you get a chance to go, you will see what I mean. I guess that's the magic of TV. I have often heard it said that people from TV look smaller in real life too.

Where's Barry Grant when you need him?

All in all, I really enjoyed my trip to Liverpool. I've always felt an affinity with the place, despite never previously visiting, and it was all borne out by my visit. I also feel slightly less of a fraud now for making the lead character of my novel, Happy New Year, from the city. At least I have now visited the locations mentioned in that story - descriptions of which are admittedly brief for that reason.

On to Wednesday and a trip to Lytham St Annes which is a quite delightful little gem by the sea just this side of Blackpool. Here we were able to enjoy a game of pitch and putt (with a few tantrums along the way, not by me on this occasion). Unfortunately the weather has begun to turn on us, so we were unable to enjoy the beach. It is typical, is it not, that in this hottest summer we have had for decades, we have unfortunately picked the one poor week to come away.

Bit cold for ice creams but it didn't stop them!

A few days left, and then we shall be home to Evesham and school will be beginning before we know it. Already the year begins to grow old.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Road Trip

As I sit here on the decking in the garden of my dream home that I bought last year, on the umpteenth night of the best summer in over 40 years, I have to reflect that life can't get much better.

If there was one thing I could change? I wish that I didn't live so far from the sea. I have always felt drawn to the coast, and am so envious of those that live close to it. Bicester was just about as far as you can get from the sea and Evesham is only marginally nearer.

With temperatures of 30+ forecast for today, I declared to the Ayres family last night that we would be going on a road trip. I've been sat in my office working away on my latest novel and various other projects for weeks and felt in need of a well deserved day off.

So with the car packed up with everything needed for a day at the beach, we set sail from sunny Evesham around 9.15am this morning, with the dulcet tones of Ken Bruce to help us along the way.

Where to go? Well the nearest seaside spot to us is Weston-Super-Mare or Weston-Super-Mud as some have dubbed it, with good reason. It's fine when the tide is in, but unfortunately when it is out, the water retreats approximately half way to France. This leaves several miles of dangerous mudflats to negotiate to reach the shoreline if one is feeling particularly suicidal. That's what happened the last time we went and a quick check of the tide times suggested it would be the same story today.

So instead we decided to try Barry Island, somewhere I've never been before. I'll be honest, I went with low expectations but was pleasantly surprised. It was an easy journey, in just around two hours we were on the beach munching our sandwiches under the watchful gaze of marauding seagulls. And the temperatures were very pleasant - whilst Heathrow was sweltering in it's hottest day of the year at 35c, we were enjoying a lovely 27c with sea breezes.

What are you hanging around me for? Do I look like the sort of
 bloke who's going to have loads of food on him? Oh...

I couldn't believe how warm the sea was. It reminded me of when I was in Hawaii all those years ago. It's amazing how much difference three months of almost unbroken sunshine can make to the waters around Britain compared to your average summer. Rather than my usual paddling I actually went far enough out to start swimming - something I found absolutely exhilarating. Swimming in the sea is one of those pure and joyous experiences that really makes me feel alive, something that in a world full of adult responsibilities is something that we can easily forget how to feel.

Me on the beach. I can't show you the topless ones
as I've sold the rights to them to Playgirl.

The one downside? Somehow I managed to step on and get stung by a weaver fish, necessitating a brief visit to first aid. That wasn't pleasant but I didn't let it spoil my day. After about four hours on the beach we went to the fair, where the kids made good use of the tokens I bought for them. We then wandered past a few gift shops selling tacky Gavin and Stacey memorabilia, finishing with a slap up meal at a lovely little cafe on the front. Then we headed home, returning to Evesham just before dark, All in all, a grand day out as Wallace and Gromit would say.

Now here I am, 11pm, in the garden again with a glass of wine during the summer that just keeps giving. Cheers.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here

Monday, 23 July 2018

Bringing my words to life.

It's been a busy few weeks here at Chapel Street Press - which is the name I gave to my modest little publishing empire when I set it up two house moves ago. It was back in those heady days at Chapel Street in Bicester where the concept of the Time Bubble first burst into print.

I've been beavering away on the fifth book in The Time Bubble series recently. It is in fact my ninth novel in this series overall when you take the spin-offs into account. You know I love to come up with original concepts for my books and I'm quite confident that I've come up with another new twist with this story.

Whilst I've been writing about Josh's latest adventure in 1992, I've also been working on another long term project to bring my books to life via the medium of audio books.

I already dipped my toe into the waters of this area a while back when I got together with Paul Messingham, a voice actor from Brighton, to record the audio book of My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday.

Over the past few months I've put some of the other books up for audition and have received an overwhelming response. The books have been flying pretty high in the Amazon charts now for some time which must certainly have helped because the number of auditions I got for The Time Bubble alone took me days to wade through. I was amazed at the number of high profile people expressing an interest - audio books are clearly no longer merely a niche market. In the end I went with a RADA actor I was already familiar with through his long running role in The Archers, in Big Finish Doctor Who audio productions and more.

For Midlife Crisis and Rock Bottom, I've got two more great actors/ producers on board with huge experience within the BBC, ITV and elsewhere. I'm going to run features on each of these people as the audio books are released so watch this space.

One of the things I'm finding absolutely thrilling about this whole process is when people who I've grown up watching on TV seek to connect with me. Only this morning I've been chatting to a female actor who had a long running role in Brookside. I was almost in awe when her name popped up in my inbox, showing interest in the next audio book I plan to commission. If you've read Happy New Year you'll know that Amy, the lead character, is from Liverpool. What could be better than having a native speaker with a proven track record from the greatest soap of all time?

It's quite an amazing experience hearing some of these hugely talented people reading aloud the words I've written, particularly the dialogue sections. My characters have always felt very alive to me, but hearing their voices brought to life by these actors brings it to a whole new level.

It also makes me think how much more potential there is in these stories. Hearing the voice of my characters is one thing, but how about seeing them in the flesh? It would be my absolute dream to see Lauren Kent, Kay and all the others brought to life on the silver screen or on TV. Who knows? Maybe these audios might bring that one step closer to reality.

Jason Ayres is the author of eight time travel novels including his latest release, Happy New Year. You can find out more by clicking here