Sunday, 18 September 2016

'Erm, why are you now Epicsugarwolf'?

So, what does Dan TDM, PythonGB, Stampy Cat (Longnose) and CorvxKenchin all have in common? Anyone? You do, of course, have to know who (yes who, not what!) they are to begin with. Well, duh! Where have you been if you don’t know? Not watching You Tubers playing Undertale/Geometry Dash/Minecraft on one device while you actually play Undertale/Geometry Dash/Minecraft on the other, that’s for sure! So get a life! You’re so embarrassing! *rolls eyes then slams bedroom door*

‘I didn’t have any of this!’ I tell my kids, sounding like my mother when 5 channels instead of 4 became a technological TV revolution. ‘I was happy with my typewriter and Tippex!’ Neither of them hear me through their headphones, of course. It was certainly true, apart from making crappy mix tapes of the top 40 every Sunday afternoon and spending far too much time winding back tape into cassettes and charging my – ehem – rechargeable batteries (I was posh, obviously). I wasn’t a gamer back then as I didn’t know such things existed, that came later at university, and I enjoy a good dose of Elder Scrolls Online as much as the next geek (I’m a pretty high level 220 champion, if I’m allowed to boast), but the day my daughter accidentally changed my google username to Epicsugarwolf (link provided for anyone interested!) while setting up her You Tube channel was the day I realised I’m actually very far behind the times.

Having a blog isn’t enough, it seems. She is excited to have a handful of subscribers, while my niece has over 100, so that’s big news for her. They have never done a ‘face reveal’ (look it up), as they’re far too young, but instead do voiceovers of themselves playing games such as Movie Star Planet, Minecraft, Roblox (a game that is totally swag, or so I’m told) and Animal Jam. Instead of physical items for Christmas they want Robux (eh?), gems and diamonds. Virtual ones, of course. Despite some reservations (my daughter is heavily monitored and I can keep an eye on her You Tubing), I am quietly impressed that she has trained herself on computer software so she can put together videos, and is one of many kids who want to be a You Tube hit. Realistically it’s about as probable as me becoming a bestselling author (I still dream!), but who am I to tell her she’ll never achieve it? It’s currently number 2 on career choices for 11 year olds, and I’m not surprised. My son’s heroes and favourite celebrities aren’t on that old box sitting in the corner of the living room, but instead exist online and at conventions such as Insomnia where kids can get a glimpse of their favourite vloggers.

I’m not completely immune to it myself, I do enjoy the weekly delight that are Rosanna Pansino’s cakey bakey skills in Nerdy Nummies, but I can feel the generational gap between my children and me and what they consider entertainment. They laugh when I suggest their own kids and grandchildren will, in years to come, think what they are doing now is lame (or whatever the equivalent word will be!). Perhaps they are right, and it won’t be actually so different, except television will be obsolete and all fame, with the possible exception of movie stars, will be accessed over the internet.

All I’m saying is, if you want not to suck next time you’re talking to a switched-on 10 year old with a love of Minecraft, check out a You Tuber or two, such as Dan TDM, who has like a massive house and pugs and dyes his hair blue ‘n stuff and like a bazillion followers – sorry, subscribers (DUH). Oh yeah, and he also has a dead swag diamond minecart. Virtually, of course.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The perils of political fact and fiction: it's all gone bonkers update

'Well, s**t the f*****g bed.' 

That was the quite classic Facebook reaction of one friend in the early hours of June 24th, and the only one which gave me cause to smile. Indeed, I concurred with his shock, but I won't go into the whys and wherefores here. I'll stick to the topic in hand: fact v fiction, and why too much inspiration can be quite the headache.

Brain melt: too...much...happening...

Quite often, when writing political fiction, events can overtake when you’re busy tapping away on the laptop keys, mind buzzing with story lines which would surely be far too crazy to happen in real life. Until now I’ve found that, although this has been the case on more than one occasion, I’ve been able to shrug it off, joke about a disclaimer or two when actual events mirror my writing. But, for the past week or so, I think real life has surpassed itself.

Gove is looking quite the Colin Scott - would he seek to usurp a leader in a coma? Very possibly...

If anyone has actually read the blurbs for my two books, Party Games and Power Play (I hope one or two of you have!), you’ll discover they’re all about personal and political animosities, rivalry, love, a huge dose of backstabbing and naked ambition. When I first started writing them, years ago, I thought a leader being shot by an old colleague with a grudge then left in a coma, plunging his party into the grip of his narcissistic rival as the Right surged ahead, would be probably too far-fetched. Cornish devolution and the threat of EU withdrawal were ridiculous policies I could have my antagonist promise with my tongue firmly in my cheek, safe in the knowledge I was literally just making it up. A party stuck with a leader it hated, voted in on a popular grassroots vote, would surely be anathema, pure fantasy, so I could just about get away with it by saying to those who might argue that politicians don’t talk/act/plot like that, that anything goes in fiction writing. Keep your hair on, it’s made up, mate! But, oh dear God, I fear my own writing is tame in comparison.

My latest book, Power Play, is available from Amazon here

Until now, Australian politics has been the one to watch. The animosity of the Rudd/Gillard years and Labor’s infighting in their wonderfully titled ‘party room’ gave me food for thought. But never mind Gove promising their points system. He has already carried out what was until recently a trademark of Aussie backstabbing in Canberra – political regicide. 

The Rudd/Gillard civil war, now tame in the face of current UK politics

Hang on, I thought two days ago, only the baddies in my novels would turn on a supposed friend, those of low morals who would do anything – and I mean anything – for the crown. I am two thirds of the way through my final book, End Game, and although I have an ending I want to stick to, it’s very tempting to move away from it and write something so outrageous it couldn’t possibly happen. True, I’ve actually got literal as well as political casualties as the Tory Party falls apart under the ‘Fuhrer’s’ leadership as the resistance gathers pace, but I feel as though my writing is getting swept along on a tide of crazy.

So, although I love a good bit of plotting, for the sake of my creative zen, please can things just calm down a bit so I can get End Game finished? All this insanity is incredibly distracting! 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A send-off for Castle, one of America's greatest TV shows (and detectives/fictional crime writers/hair cuts). Ever.

I may have mentioned on this blog once or twice (perhaps more!) my love for the ABC series Castle, and how if I could be any fictional TV character I would be him, etc ,etc. 

Here he is, just to continue this point:

Ahh, Richard Castle. Lovely, lovely, perfect Castle....

Today I’ve been feeling out of sorts, one of those days where you can’t concentrate on anything much – not even novel writing – and I’ve got a bit of nausea going on. It wasn’t until I sat looking forlornly out of the window that I realised my problem: I’m in mourning. I watched the very last episode ever, the season 8 finale, last night. Now my world has gone dark, how can I cope without the next season to look forward to?

The moment you realise your favourite show is cancelled...

Not that this season has been its best, its hay-day was in seasons 4 and 5 when the hunt was on for Beckett’s mother’s killer, but still, I can’t help but think there was mileage for a season 9 without Beckett (Stana Katic was fired and wouldn’t have gone on to a season 9). It lost the plot, literally, part way through 8 when I had forgotten what Locksat was (did we ever really know?). It was, somehow, connected to Senator Bracken and Beckett’s mother’s murder – I think?! It was never really elaborated on, there was no ‘reminder’ in the script and things plodded on for a while. Beckett and Castle had to pretend they weren’t together any longer (wtf?), which grated and didn’t really make a whole lot of sense. I get she was trying to protect him, but it stunted not only their relationship but the overarching series storyline.

But it never lost its charm, the weekly deaths making for the usual pacey whodunnits, and Castle himself was fresh with charisma and one-liners right up to the end. I could have imagined a season 9, Rick with a new sidekick (NOT a love interest, perhaps Beckett had gone on a really flipping long assignment in Paris like Camile in Death in Paradise) and his great hair, envious writing career and private detective work could have continued. He could have his own spin-off, it could be called Castle

I’m not one for fan fiction (apart from a stint 13 years ago), but in my head it plays out quite nicely. So I’m terribly sad to see Nathan Fillion leave our screens, despite having a great innings at 8 seasons, which most US shows can only dream of. So long and farewell, my TV hero, you will be missed!

Waaaaah, waaaaaah!

Which leads me to a bit of a rant to end the post….WHY ON EARTH CANCEL LIMITLESS?? A witty, well-made, often quirky show off the back of the rather crappy film of the same name with Bradley Cooper (who makes cameo appearances from time to time), Limitless was fresh with a charismatic lead which appeared to be doing well for CBS and was a second season shoo-in. It just shows that you can’t trust American networks and really you should wait until a programme gets a second season renewal before bothering with the first season! So I have been dealing with a double whammy of TV misery.

Bye, bye, Brian Finch and your collection of horrible jumpers

I am, however, chuffed that Sleepy Hollow has been renewed, but also rather surprised without a certain lead…still, perhaps Ichabod Crane will come across a crime writing novelist with an over-active imagination and a love for paranormal theory, and a cross-over will be born….

So to end on a high note, here's a picture of Ichabod, aka Tom Mison. See you again soon, me English muffin!

Monday, 21 March 2016

The perils of Westminster fact and fiction

You'd think I'd be at least a bit excited when real life imitates fiction. As a writer of fictional political shenanigans, the potential for real and imagined cross-over comes with the territory, and back in January (three months is a hell of a long time in politics!) I was thanking Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for providing me with some inspiration for the third book in my trilogy, End Game.

While some of my not-so-nice characters are loosely based on real people (who are now thankfully long dead, but that’s for another post), the danger of writing a Westminster thriller is that stuff can come true. And although a very small part of me is self-congratulatory for accidentally dabbling in a bit of political prediction, for the most part I begin to panic. Is such-a-character actually a bit like real-life X, when I didn’t intend that? Actually no, they’re possibly more like real-life Y, but with a bit of X thrown in….

In the end I end up going a bit mad trying to work it out, so I give up and just carry on writing them how I have seen them for the past few months, possibly years, depending on whether they have been with me through the first two books.

I’m only up to chapter seven of End Game and already I’m pondering a disclaimer. Without giving too much of the game away, it’s the third in my trilogy (Party Games and Power Play being books 1 and 2 respectively). Civil war is ravaging a broken Conservative Party in Opposition (with all the navel-gazing that entails), and at its head is a despotic leader who sees himself as untouchable, bullying and threatening those he should be courting. He tightens his grip as a growing rebellion threatens to break him, surrounding himself with sycophants and narcissists, while treachery is closer than he thinks.

The prologue sees two senior conspirators, both of whom are in the shadow cabinet, and one of whom is the Leader’s closest confidante, meeting to announce their secret plot to a group of rebel backbenchers. I wrote that last year, not long after the general election, so it was far more pie in the sky back then, all those many political months ago. Perhaps, having been around to see a number of Tory leaders come and go (some more quickly than others!) I shouldn’t have been quite so na├»ve, particularly as my first book, Party Games, took some inspiration from the (original) resignation of Iain Duncan Smith.

There will be plenty of events in End Game which I would eat not just my hat but my entire wardrobe if they actually happened (while seriously laughing my arse off), although reality can certainly be stranger than any fiction I can think up.

@Snoozeinbrief wasn’t wrong (with perhaps Blair and Brown being an exception) when he tweeted ‘The Tories are so much better at infighting than Labour. They really put their heart into it’, which is why, of course, they are such fun to write about. But there is a fine line between drawing inspiration and copying the current climate, unless of course you make it clear from the start this is what you are doing. End Game won’t be out until 2017, so of course plenty will happen between now and then, but I’ll have that disclaimer at the ready just in case.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Why I'm not feeling the January blues - much

Traditionally January is the most depressing month. Christmas is done with and the weather's still crap but without the twinkly lights and the presents (unless you've got a birthday in January like some I know - bad timing, people!), you may be feeling a bit more podgy than you did a month before and you've already broken your new year's resolution not to eat so much cake. In years gone by I've felt the same, that festive lethargy still in your mindset but that little bit more gloomy as the first of the train delays leave you freezing on the station platform at 7am. But this year I have a gift: that being Jeremy Corbyn and the current state of the Labour Party.

True, it's terrible for democracy, an Opposition ripping itself apart, navel-gazing while the Government can relax at being pretty much unopposed for the foreseeable future. But, for me and my writing, Corbyn's time - however long or short - at Labour's helm are more literary ideas and inspiration in the bank for book three of my trilogy.

When I published my second book in 2014, Power Play, I knew it was a ridiculous notion. A radical leader with dangerous views taking over a political party, alienating the moderates (i.e. those with a more pragmatic approach to philosophy and policy), sending most of them to the back benches where they plot to overthrow said leader before he rips their beloved party apart. They are terrified of de-selection (the leadership throwing them out of their seat by the next General Election), hiding in the shadows, talking of splitting from the leader and his fundamental beliefs. The only difference being (apart from being Right rather than Left, although the two are one of the same in extremes) is that my fictional leader, Colin Scott, along with his 'henchmen' (and women), has an iron grip on his party and nobody would dare speak out against him in public. He has a real thirst for power, whereas it's quite clear Corbyn does not.

Nevertheless, when Corbyn was elected last year, I thought Arghhh!  I'll need a disclaimer! but then, while the botched reshuffle went on (and on) this week and I tweeted about my own 'revenge reshuffle' in Power Play (perhaps Corbyn should give it a read and see how it should really be done), I thought: this is amazing. Along with the fall of UKIP and the disappearance of the BNP (also in Power Play) I've predicted the beginning of the end for the partisan system in the UK. Well, not quite...but if I don't laugh about the similarities I would probably cry. Then laugh again.

So, while I'm now making more progress with End Game, the final book, the pressure's on to get ahead of the game (no pun intended) throughout 2016 and write things before they happen in real life. Sure, as Jeffrey Archer once said, truth can be stranger than fiction, but what if it's the same? It's a conundrum I'll have fun with and despair over during the coming months. And I can't wait.

Both Party Games (book 1) and Power Play (book 2) are now 99p each on Amazon.