Thursday, 12 December 2019

Teasers and Prologues

I watch a lot of TV - probably more than I should since I got Netflix, but hey, it's winter and the sun sets ridiculously early, and I've got 91 episodes of Orange is the new Black to get through, amongst other things.

What do you think about teasers in TV programmes - in particular those that give a hint about what's to come? I'm talking about something shocking and unexpected in the pre-credits sequence that's going to happen much later in the show. After the opening credits you get a caption along the lines of "Three Days Earlier" so you know you'll be working up to what you saw before.

Personally, I've always liked this, and the literary equivalent is the Prologue. I used to feel that my books started rather slowly so I gave it a try in Class of '92, my last book, which opened with a dinosaur rampaging through Oxford. I think that got people's attention.

For my new book, I've decided to go down the same route and opened the book with a truly shocking opening in which two of the most beloved characters of the series find themselves in mortal peril.Those of you local to where the books are set may recognise the location - it's the roof of the Sainsbury car park in Bicester and the stairs leading down to the shop.

The good news is you don't have to wait until the end of the month to read the prologue as I'm releasing it as a teaser right here right now. Hopefully this will whet your appetite for the book's release on 29th December.

What's in the new book, without giving too much away? It's a book of two halves, really. In the first half, Josh and the team get involved in some new experiments travelling back within their own time streams. This gives us a chance to see the Time Bubble team again when they were young, as Josh faces off against his old enemy Dan in a legendary pub crawl. Later, things take a more serious turn when a new and far deadlier foe emerges, tying in with this prologue.



June 2025

Kaylee was crippled with fear in a way she never had been before. It was the kind of fear that people only felt at the very real prospect of imminent death, and it was consuming her whole body like a slug of poison coursing through her veins.

She was a lithe, fit woman in her mid-twenties but right now she felt as weak and helpless as a frail, old woman. Frantically she tried to suppress her body’s overwhelming reflex to be physically sick and to summon up the energy she needed to keep running from her assailant.

As she descended the stairs on the fire escape that led down to the ground below, the desire to throw up was too strong and she paused briefly, leaning over the metal bannister to projectile vomit over the side.

The staircase, behind the superstore, ran all the way from the top floor of the car park above to the entrance to the shop below. As the splatter of her semi-digested breakfast hit the floor some thirty feet below, she heard a woman’s voice further down the stairwell exclaiming, “Disgusting!”

That was all very well for her to say, thought Kaylee, but she hadn’t just seen her husband murdered in cold blood right in front of her.

Barely a minute ago, up on the roof, she had seen her beloved Charlie hit by a futuristic laser weapon that had made him briefly glow an incredibly bright blue before completely vanishing.

The unidentified, black-clad and masked assassin had then turned the weapon on Kaylee but the young woman had been nimble enough to just about scramble out of the way, leaving her abandoned Sainsbury’s trolley to be zapped into oblivion instead.

Despite being utterly traumatised at seeing the love of her life vaporised right in front of her, her survival instincts had kicked in and she had ducked behind a large, white Transit van that was pulling out of a parking space close to the sliding glass doors that led to the entrance.

From there she had managed to dive through the doors, despite a third thunderous laser blast shot taking out the van and presumably the unfortunate occupant within it.
Desperate to escape, she headed towards the lift doors, but she soon realised there was no escape that way.

A crude, handwritten note attached to the lift doors informed her it was out of order again, leaving her with a choice of the travelator or the stairs, a decision which needed to be made in a split second. She opted for the latter, figuring they were less open, making her a more difficult target for the assassin who she assumed would be coming after her. She could also see that there were people blocking the travelator with their trolleys – she would be a sitting duck.

As she burst through the doors and began to descend the stairwell, there was only one word in her mind and that was “why?”

Was this some random terror attack with some new type of weapon she had never seen or heard of before? Or was it a premeditated hit and, if so, why was whoever it was targeting her and Charlie? They were just a normal young couple doing their Saturday morning shopping. They didn’t have any enemies.

It had been the most ordinary of days until they had emerged onto the top floor of the car park. Charlie had been pushing the trolley and they had been chatting amiably about their plans for the weekend. Their friends Josh, Lauren and Hannah were coming around for dinner and they had just bought everything they needed, not just the food but also copious amounts of alcohol.

That dinner was never going to happen now, she thought, as she willed herself on, leaping down the stairs, three steps at a time. She was desperate for what she hoped would be the relative safety of the store: at least there were security guards there. Admittedly they were probably more used to dealing with shoplifters slipping bottles of vodka into their coat pockets than assassins with laser guns, but it was better than nothing.

These and countless other thoughts whirled through her head in the relatively short time it took to descend the stairs. This couldn’t just be some random terror attack. There had been other people around at the top of the car park, but the assassin had ignored them, focusing solely on her and Charlie.

There was no doubt it was the two of them the assassin had been after, and Kaylee knew that escaping through the doors had only given her a temporary respite. She felt a growing feeling of despair welling up inside her at the realisation that her chances of getting out of this alive were slim.

Part of her almost didn’t want to escape. Charlie was her whole life. Without him was it even worth surviving? Should she just give in and accept her fate, like a condemned prisoner at the gallows? But then she would never know the reason behind all of this, and she doubted that the assassin was going to give her the courtesy of an explanation before blowing her away into oblivion.

There was a tiny flicker of hope inside her that perhaps Charlie wasn’t dead. Perhaps the laser beam hadn’t been a weapon but instead had just transported him somewhere else. It was the stuff of science fiction, but after all the adventures with the Time Bubble a few years previously, her mind was open to all kinds of possibilities.

The only other comforting thought she had, and it was an extremely tenuous one, was that if the assassin did kill her, maybe she and Charlie would be together again somewhere. It was an odd thing to think of because she had never believed in any sort of deity, but the likelihood of impending doom had suddenly made the existence of some sort of afterlife an extremely appealing proposition.

By now she was halfway down the stairwell at the entrance to the middle level of the car park. As she swung around the corner towards the next flight of stairs, she almost knocked a mother with two young girls out of the way in her haste.

The woman gave her an extremely filthy look which suggested she was the one who had seen the contents of Kaylee’s stomach descending at high speed towards the ground floor moments before.

There was no time to apologise or issue a warning: what use would that be? If the assassin was only after Kaylee, these people would be safe, and if not, no one would be against the sort of weaponry the killer was toting.

Kaylee risked a quick glance back up the stairs but there no sign that she was being followed. Briefly she allowed herself a little hope that maybe she was going to get out of this alive after all.

Her hopes were swiftly quashed as she arrived at the bottom of the stairs and the assassin reappeared, right out of thin air directly in front of her. With a sinking feeling, she knew now that the game was up.

It was the first time Kaylee had got a proper look at her executioner, not that it gave her any clue as to the identity. The assassin was so heavily clad in black body armour and a mask that covered the whole face, bar the eyes, that she couldn’t even tell if it was male or female. Come to that, she couldn’t even be sure it was human – the armour was made of some strange-looking metallic material that made her wonder if it might not be some sort of robot or android. Could it be an alien, or something from the future?

“Why are you doing this?” cried Kaylee as the killer raised the weapon that had already killed her husband. They would be her final words as no reply was forthcoming.

There was a high-pitched whistling sound and then a single brilliant, bright blue laser bolt consumed her body, instantly annihilating her. Barely anything was left behind, just the single yellow flower that she had been wearing in her hair which was blown off her head by the blast. Other than that, there was nothing, not even a hint of smoke.

Beneath the mask, the assassin smiled, pulled a wand-like device out of a side pocket and pressed a button, before stepping forward and vanishing

Other than the small yellow flower fluttering slowly downwards towards the regurgitated bits of muesli and skimmed milk congealing on the floor, it was as if neither of them had ever been there.
To be continued... 

Many of you will recognise this location.
It's The Bridge of Sighs in Oxford which is featured in a key scene.

Vanishing Point will be released on 29th December 2019 and you can reserve your copy here: Vanishing Point

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.


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... 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.