I went to No. 10 Downing Street today!
Not a great picture (it was dark, sorry), but I did have the honour of being invited to Number 10 Downing Street today, due to the work I do with Comic Relief… Come on Red Nose Day!!!!
Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry
Hello everybody! I’m so sorry I haven’t been updating my blog much over the last few months – the truth is, loads of stuff has happened since my last update in August, I’ve been busy with work and out of the country a bit, and as a result I just haven’t had the time to write about it all. In no particular order, this is just some of what I’ve been through since my last update:
1) I’ve watched some films.
Here’s a list and a quick summary of the films I’ve seen, and what thought of them:
Godzilla: Very good. I think you see the monster enough, depsite some complaints I’ve read of people feeling short-changed.
Pacific Rim: Like Godzilla, but with even fewer female characters in it. There’s a good joke where one robot punches a Newton’s cradle, but other than that it’s pretty standard stuff.
Edge of Tomorrow: Fantastic high-concept sci-fi, can’t believe it didn’t fare better at the box office. Tom Cruise is great in it as a PR coward who slowly becomes a badass.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Hugely entertaining and funny sci-fi caper. Far exceeded my expectations, and I think even better than the core Marvel films.
Frozen: Classic Disney fare with strong female characters and a great message about not being ashamed of what you are. “Let it go, let it go….” sorry.
Interstellar: Hugely over-rated, 40 minutes too long, unnecessary use of Matt Damon, and a contrived, cop-out ending. Science = magic, kids! A real pity – I had high hopes for this. I don’t understand why everyone is going nuts about it.
Hunger Games Mockingjay: A great adaptation of the first half of the book. Finnick’s speech about secrets is ruined, but otherwise they did a good job.
The Imitation Game: A real gem of a movie about Alan Turing, the mathematician who solved the Nazi Enigma code. Wonderful performance by Benedict Bumdbedebum
2) I’ve met some people:
I met David Beckham and Paralympic Gold Medallist Jonnie Peacock in September. The meeting was nothing to do with them endorsing Time Rep unfortunately – it was to do with my day-job! Both thoroughly nice blokes.
3) I’ve been traveling:
In September, I went on holiday to America, doing a bit of a road trip around Washington State and Oregon with my wife. Starting in Seattle, we drove (and by that I mean I drove – Lucy doesn’t like to drive abroad) to Snowqualmie (where they filmed Twin Peaks), then down to Mount Rainier, then over to Portland, then to Cannon Beach (where they filmed the Goonies), then up to the Olympic National Park, then back round to Seattle. I was thinking about posting some of the 200 photos of what we saw and doing a bit of a commentary on the highlights, but then I figured no-one would care. Even my friends look a bit bored when I show them the photos (and one of them has an owl in it, so they’re pretty good photos), so I’m sure total strangers will find them even less interesting!
4) I’ve been writing:
Boy, have I been writing. This book I’m working on is quite complicated, and much longer than anything I’ve done before, but I think it’s coming along quite nicely. I haven’t said much about it so far, but it’s basically a murder mystery set in the future, written in the same sarcastic tone as Time Rep. The title I’m going with at the moment is The Electric Detective, but that may change – I’ll see how I feel.
Anyway, that’s it – just to say I haven’t forgotten about this site, and I will add updates when I can – I just think it’s a better use of my time to be writing my book than to be updating this every now and again with random musings, but I did want to stop and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year, which I’ve now done, so I’ll be off.
See you later (hopefully not in four months)
Breaking the fourth wall
If there’s one thing I always love in movies, it’s when they break the fourth wall. Now, for the uninitiated of you out there, let me briefly explain what this means. Breaking the fourth wall is where a character on the screen acknowledges the world outside of the one in which the movie is set. It is usually done by a character either talking or looking directly at the audience. Of course, the two greatest examples of this are as follows:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (in which he constantly advises the audience on all matters pertaining to being awesome):
Trading Places (when Billy Ray turns and gives a long look to the camera after being told he might find bacon in a ‘bacon, lettuce and tomato’ sandwich):
There are of course other examples, but these two are my favourite. So why do I like it so much when movies do this? I’m not sure, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that it happens so rarely. It’s almost as if the film is breaking some sort of code that prohibits it from happening, so when it does, it’s like the film is being a bit naughty.
The same cannot be said however, for movie posters. In movie posters, it seems almost mandatory that the characters acknowledge the outside world, and they way in which they do so is carefully designed to tell you all you need to know about the film in the two seconds you spend looking at it on your way to work. So far I have identified four different categories that these posters fall into:
1) The characters look embarrassed / ashamed / confused / annoyed about the situation this movie has put them in
These films are generally mindless, high-concept capers in which the main characters are thrust into a situation that takes them out of their comfort zone, with ‘hilarious’ consequences. Everything is resolved in less than 110 minutes (or should be), and all the characters grow into being better than they were at the beginning of the film. Nobody dies, and somebody usually falls over at some point. Vince Vaughn generally stars.
Notable examples: The Internship, Delivery Man, The Dilemma, Sex Tape, The Five Year Engagement:
2) Loads of characters are in shot, and most / all of them are looking directly at you. The poster makes you feel as though you have arrived just after an interesting incident that you will only find out more about if you watch the film.
These films are again high-concept capers, but generally with a more adult theme. There will be at least three gross-out moments, one of which will probably involve somebody’s penis. There may also be a joke involving a pet being used to cover someone’s bum.
Notable examples: American Pie, The Hangover, Brides Maids (that’s two words, idiots):
3) The characters look knowingly at the camera with a wry smile, their faces are usually cast half in shadow. If there is more than one character in the poster, the scale goes all weird as if everyone secondary to the plot has just been miniaturised accidentally.
These films are typically action movies where loads of cool shit happens. Things blow up, there is usually an exciting opening sequence, a girl will get undressed at some point for no reason, and the third act will involve a fight on an unconventional means of transport. The movie will also be 25 minutes longer than necessary.
Notable Examples: X-Men, Iron Man, Star Trek, any Bond film, Pirates of the Caribbean:
4) Only the main character is aware of the world outside the movie. Everyone else in the poster is preoccupied by something or someone else.
These films generally have a more complicated plot, and not necessarily a happy ending. You may generally dislike the main character and wish that they get their comeuppance.
Notable examples: The Hundred Foot Journey, The Wolf of Wall Street, Home Alone:
I’m sure there are more categories, but that’s all I can be bothered to come up with for now. So why do movie posters break the fourth wall so often, even though most films do not? Well obviously it’s to get our attention. You see, as human beings, we can sense when somebody is looking at us, and feel a compulsion to look back. It harks back to the days when we were constantly scoping out our surroundings for threats, and as such we have no choice but to look at these posters. It’s instinctive, much like the urge to switch off the television whenever The X-Factor comes on.
So in other words, you could say these posters are designed to exploit a primeval fear buried deep inside the recesses of our mind; a fear that we are being hunted. And I suppose we are being hunted in a way, only the predators in this case are movie executives, circling around us with their posters, their billboards, and those adverts you see on the sides of buses. And Vince Vaughn.
Nice to know, isn’t it?
The top 27.5 lists of stuff that’s good of all time!
If there’s one thing people love to read, it’s a good list. Indeed, when I first set up this website, I read that a really easy way of creating ‘content’ (you know – that word that only marketeers use to generically describe ‘entertainment’) was to do a list of something, like a top ten this, or a top five that. And do you know what? I think they’re right. I mean, you only have to turn on the television and switch over to Channel 4, and there’s a 1 in 3 chance they’ll be screening something like “The top 50 gadgets of all time!” or “The top 100 children’s television shows of all time!” There are literally hundreds of these programmes out there (and I’m sure we’re not too far away from “The top 100 ‘list-shows’ of all time!” rearing its head at some point), and the reason for that is that they are just so bloody popular.
The internet is the same – there are countless blogs with countless ‘top whatever’ lists out there, but there is one major difference I have noticed to the lists you see on television: an aversion to round numbers. You see, I was searching the internet for “the top time travel plots of all time”, and one of the first links that came up was a “top 22”. A top 22? What is that about? Can’t we just have a top 20? No, apparently, the list needs to be 22 in length. I assumed there are just too many good time travel plots out there to squeeze into a more concise list, but when number 22 is Timecop and number 18 is Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, you begin to suspect that maybe the intention was for the list to be a peculiar length all along.
So I began to see if this trend of not having “round number” lists was unique to time travel plots, or if there were others out there. Turns out, the internet is full of them. These are my favourites (and please note – to break with internet tradition, I have stuck to a top 10):
- The top 47 books for kids who love animals
- The top 57 iphone apps you should install today
- The top 34 moments from New York fashion week
- The top 28 North American sports knee surgeons
- The top 58 sandwich recipes
- The top 41 powerhouse fruits and vegetables by nutrient density
- The top 34 names of crazy people
- The top 16 breastfeeding controversies
- The top 29 reasons why it’s okay to creepily stare at women’s butts
- The top 33 most creative camping DIY projects and clever ideas
I particularly like the last one. You see, not only is it a list of the most creative camping DIY projects, but it covers clever ideas too. Now, that’s pretty broad, wouldn’t you say? I mean, there have been loads of clever ideas over time, like the invention of wheel, the discovery of penicillin, and intorduction of squeezy Marmite onto supermarket shelves in 2007. So what’s the number one ‘clever idea’ on that list? What was deemed the greatest thing mankind ever thought up? I’ll save you the bother of going there to find out – it’s using beeswax to waterproof your shoes.
You’ll never guess what happened to me…
Finally – I’m back! I’m so sorry I haven’t been writing much on this blog recently, particularly since I said in the post before last that I would try and update the site more often. That hasn’t really happened has it? I want to give you an amazing excuse for my absence, something along the lines of the following:
You’ll never guess what happened to me – back in April, I was sitting down at my computer, ready to write yet another hilarious blog entry, when my entire house was beamed aboard a giant spaceship and whisked off to another planet. The reason for my abduction was because an alien race had obtained a copy of Time Rep, and they wanted me to explain the ending. Unfortunately, my explanation infuriated the aliens, who threatened to either execute me, or make me go on national television and participate in their version of the X-Factor as punishment. I pleaded to be executed.
In the end I reached an agreement with the aliens – I would re-write the ending to a standard they were happier with. In this new ending, exactly the same thing happens, but at the last minute a fight scene takes place, all the characters inexplicably get caught up in a car chase, and something explodes. There’s also a tiger in it.
The aliens were much more satisfied with this ending, as they felt it provided a final action scene to maintain the pace of the story. They also liked tigers. As a reward for my efforts, I was granted a three month guided tour around the galaxy. I had an amazing time travelling the cosmos – I glided through glittering nebulas, drifted through thousands of black holes, and touched the very corner of the universe (turns out it’s a square). I saw things no other human had seen before. The only downside to all this was I had no internet access, so I’ve been unable to update this site until now. So I’m very sorry for being away for so long, but hopefully you’ll agree this is a pretty good excuse.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened, and I don’t have a pretty good excuse. I just haven’t been able to think of much to write about, so rather than write something I haven’t been happy with, I decided not to write anything at all.
But wait – there is some good news in all of this. You see, while it’s true I haven’t been updating this blog recently, I haven’t just been sitting around in my pyjamas watching Marvel’s Agents of Shield since April. Oh no. On the book front, things are progressing rather nicely, and I hope to have loads of new stuff to share with you very soon.
Watch this space…
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Ever since the first Iron Man film, I’ve been a big fan of the relentless stream of films set in the Marvel universe (yes, even the first Thor film). So I was very excited about the latest entry in the series: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now, for me, Captain America isn’t the strongest character in the Marvel canon. He’s a little bit straight-laced for me; a little bit too perfect, and I like my heroes to have flaws. Character flaws make me be able to relate to a protagonist better, because I’ve got flaws coming out of my ears (as well as wax, since one of my flaws is that I don’t clean my ears enough). With Captain America though, I cannot think of a single vice, vulnerability or character defect he has, and that makes me suspect there’s something behind the scenes we don’t know about him that makes up for this. Maybe he likes to burn ants under a magnifying glass in his garden when he’s not doing press ups. Or maybe he has a disturbingly large porn collection under his bed. Either way, he’s just too perfect.
Despite my ambivalence towards Captain A himself, I had high hopes for this film. Regardless of who the lead character is, I’m fascinated the twists and turns that occur in the fantastic world Marvel has established in its films. No, really – Marvel could make a film focussing on the adventures of the guy who paints the toilets in Shield’s headquarters, and I’d still go and see it. So what did I think? Well, I sort of liked it. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I just felt it could have been better. Now, I’ve done a couple of blog posts about films before, but this time (inspired by a friend of mine), I thought I would break my criticism into two camps: Wot I liked, and Wot I felt could be improved (before you get to the colon at the end of this sentence though, you should be aware that there might be one or two spoilers ahead):
Wot I liked:
- There was a really interesting plot here, and I think the film had a very serious point to make behind its glossy action exterior, about the nature of surveillance and whether or nor we are surrendering our freedom willingly. At times, The Winter Soldier played out like one of those great 70s political thrillers, and having Robert Redford (who was awesome, as you would expect), only emphasised this through his pedigree. It was just a shame the film’s potential was suffocated towards the end by the action, which I will come onto later.
- Scarlet Johansson. Great as ever.
- Like a lot of the other Marvel films, this one didn’t take itself too seriously. There were lots of good gags in it, particularly the one about breakfast.
- I thought Anthony Mackie was great as Falcon. In an interview he did recently, he said he was really excited to do the role because he could be a superhero for his kids, and I thought that was pretty sweet. He looked like he was having a great time in this film.
Wot I felt could be improved:
- I wasn’t sure why this was called Captain America: The Winter Solider. The Winter Soldier was only a secondary character in this film, and not really the focus of the story. The film was about project Insight, not The Winter Soldier. You might as well have named the film Captain America: The Notepad Where he Writes Down Stuff, and it would have been just as meaningful.
- I’m not sure it was the right decision to make Captain America the lead character for this film. As I said earlier, Scarlet Johansson was a plus point of this film, but there’s more to it than the fact that she looks rather nice in a leather cat suit. I think this film would have worked much better if her character (Black Widow) was the lead, and Captain America was in support. In fact, in many ways, she was the lead in this film – she is the one who knows more about what is going on, she’s the one closer to Nick Fury, and she’s the one who makes more sacrifices at the end when she has to reveal her past in order to expose Hydra. This film would have been much stronger if it was a Black Widow vehicle, rather than Captain America.
- As interesting as the plot is, everything goes out of the window in the final act. Okay, this is a comic book movie, but the aerial acrobatics and the sheer scale of what happens in the last twenty minutes is just so ridiculous, its no longer possible for the audience to suspend their disbelief. I think the filmmakers wanted to out-do The Avengers with an epic climax, but in the end I think they went too far. This film would have worked better with a more restrained ending, less reliant on guns blazing. Some sort of battle of wits or something.
Anyway, enough of what I think – Captain America, how many stars would you give this film out of five?
Only one!? That’s a bit harsh, Captain. I give it three.
Two minutes of your life that you won’t get back
Sorry I haven’t been able to update my website for so long – over the past few weeks my job has been rather stressful (I’m not a full-time author, in case you didn’t know), and in order to get everything done that has been required of me, I’ve had to work some pretty long hours. As a result, it’s been difficult to think about anything other than work when I’ve arrived home late at night, and the last thing I’ve wanted to do when I’ve got back is sit in front of a computer screen and start typing, despite the fact that I really enjoy what I do for a living. I’m a wrestler, you see.
Okay I’m not really a wrestler. In truth, I have an office job (albeit a rather unusual one), and I’ve still got a lot of stuff to do before everything is all wrapped up. That said, I don’t want to let my real-world commitments stop me from updating this blog. It’s just hard to stop thinking about work at the moment, and if I’m not careful, I’ll just end up writing about that. Oh wait – that’s all I’ve been doing for the last two paragraphs. Let me try and change the subject, otherwise this will be two minutes of you life that you won’t get back.
That’s an odd phrase, isn’t it? I was in the elevator with a friend of mine the other day and he was talking about a bad game of football he’d watched recently. That’s every game of football as far as I’m concerned (I don’t do sport), but in this case the game was apparently rather boring, even for someone who enjoys watching overpaid men run around trying to get a ball to a place.
To digress for a moment, have you ever noticed how 90% of all sport just revolves around getting a ball to a place? Tennis – get a ball to a place. Golf – get a ball to a place. Cricket – get a ball to a place. Football – get a ball to a place. Rugby – get a ball to a place. Basketball – get a ball to a place. Pool – get a ball to a place. Baseball – get a ball to a place. As a species, why are we so fascinated by people who are very good at getting balls to places? Sometimes I just don’t understand the world, although from experience it’s probably me who’s the weird one.
Anyway, back to my friend and the football match he didn’t enjoy watching.
“So yeah, that’s two hours of my life I won’t get back,” he said.
I thought about what he’d just said for a moment.
“Have you ever wondered what that phrase actually means?” I asked.
“What?” my friend said, a smile creeping across his face. He smiled because he knows what I’m like, and correctly anticipated that my question was going to be followed by a smart-arse remark.
“Think about it,” I said. “That’s two hours of my life I won’t get back. What does it mean? It implies that there are scenarios in which you do actually get time back, but when does that ever happen? That football match could have been the best match ever, but you still wouldn’t have got those two hours of your life back.”
“I guess,” he said.
“So why do we say it?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s just something people say, isn’t it? But you’re right – you would never get any time back, so as phrases go, it’s a bit pointless really.”
“Actually,” I said, “I’ve just thought of two scenarios in which you would get the time back.”
“Let’s say you watched that match on a plane, and you were flying west across two time zones. When you looked at your watch at the end of the game, the time would be the same as when you’d started watching the match. So you could then say, ‘That’s two hours of my life I just got back’.”
My friend sighed.
“And the other scenario?” he said, slumping against the elevator wall.
“Let’s say you were watching the football match on the day the clocks went back…”
At this point, the lift announced in a synthesised female voice that it had arrived at its destination.
“Bye,” my friend said.
Anyway, that’s the end of my story. I will try and update this site more often, and it should be easier over the next few weeks as hopefully my work should ease off a little and I should have some holiday soon.
Choose your TV boxsets wisely
If there’s one thing that’s changed since the turn of the century, it’s the fact that there are so many more awesome television series out there. Sure, back in the eighties and nineties there were a few great shows (Twin Peaks, anyone?) but these days, there’s just so much more choice: Breaking Bad, The Wire, Sherlock, Game of Thrones – the list of quality television drama is endless. Well, maybe not endless, but it’s certainly very long, like a list of everything that’s wrong with Michael Bay films.
So why has this happened? Why are we suddenly so spoilt for choice when it comes to great television? I think the advent of the DVD has a lot to do with it. Before DVDs, there was just no way you could go into a shop and buy seven seasons of a TV show (or ‘series’, as we like to refer to ‘seasons’ in the UK, particularly since most TV series don’t actually last 13 weeks, which I believe constitutes the length of a ‘season’ in the traditional sense of the word). And the reason you couldn’t buy seven series of a TV show before the DVD came along was because video tapes just took up so much space. And that wasn’t the only bad thing about them. Do you actually remember video tapes? Do you remember rewinding and fast-forwarding them? Do you remember a time before you could use a menu to skip to an episode? Do you remember when you could only fit three hours onto a huge plastic tape the size of a hardback book? Do you remember the screen flickering when you paused it? In a world where you now can fit every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation on half a shelf, it’s strange to think that twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to fit the same number of episodes on the actual bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Watching a whole series of a TV show on video tapes was a right pain. But on DVD, it was suddenly easy.
And the easier it became for people to watch whole series of TV shows, the more they bought, and the more they bought, the more shows began to get made. In the early days you had 24. Lost. The West Wing. Prison Break. These shows had proper movie production values (remember the first episode of 24 when the plane exploded?), great storylines, and in some cases, they had proper movie stars in them. And Kiefer Sutherland. Audiences were blown away, and suddenly the entertainment landscape was changed. Within a few years, the number of great shows had multiplied exponentially, and today people are now quite happy to buy a whole TV series on DVD, watch every episode back to back over a weekend or two, and then buy the next series.
That’s the norm.
Then there’s the fact that it’s now easier than ever for you to watch your favourite TV show wherever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Oh no! Did you miss the latest episode of Breaking Bad? Well don’t worry, because you can watch it on catchup. Or download it to your phone. Or watch it on your computer. Or have it projected into your dreams. Okay, I made that last one up, but what I’m trying to say is that there are now more fantastic TV shows out there than ever before, and it’s also easier than ever to watch them wherever you are. Consume! Don’t miss out! Watch as many shows as you can in every free moment you have!
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch TV. TV is fine. What I’m saying is that it’s impossible to watch every great show that’s out there without compromising something else in your life. So you have to make a choice. You have to choose your TV boxsets wisely. There are just too many great shows out there, and if you watched all of them, you would do nothing else with your time. Out of Breaking Bad, The Wire and Game of Thrones, I’ve only seen Game of Thrones. I know Breaking Bad is supposed to be amazing, and everyone screams at me about how The Wire is the most sublime piece of television ever made, but I’m never going to watch either of them. The reason for this is because I realise I have to choose how to divide up my time. Do I want to spend the amount of time required to watch all these great series, sitting in front of a television? Not really. I know I’m missing out on two fantastic shows, but then I’d be missing out on something else if I watched them too.
I’d miss doing something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen.
Then again, this blog post took longer to write than the average length of a TV episode, so who’s spending longer looking at a screen in the end really?
That would be me!
Geek! Magazine interview
I recently did an interview about Time Rep for Geek! magazine in Germany, who have kindly allowed me to reproduce it here in English:
Hello Pete. H. G. Wells, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who – are British authors of your Generation sort of “doomed” to write funny time travel fiction?
PW: No, I don’t think so – I wrote a funny time travel story because I had an idea about people going back in time for their holidays and I thought it was an interesting plot that I’d never seen done before. I guess Britain does have a reputation for its sense of humour and science fiction authors, and being a product of that culture certainly influenced my interests and the tone I wanted to achieve in my writing. But the book I wrote after Time Rep (Note to Self) was much more serious and had nothing to do with time travel, so hopefully I’ve already shown I can break free of that mould to some degree.
What do you think has made time travel stories so appealing to people for such a long time?
PW: I think the appeal of time travel stories comes from the fact that they open up the possibility of a narrative structure that’s completely different to something you would get from another type of story. Time travel offers the reader the chance to visit an incredible variety of locations, it has the ability to offer a unique commentary on the world today by projecting ideas and issues forward to exaggerated conclusions, and most of all, it’s cool!
As well as time travel, you added an Alien-Invasion-conspiracy – didn’t you fear this could be too much?
PW: When I started writing Time Rep, I never intended its world to be packed with so many different science fiction tropes, but the more the story progressed, the more I found myself touching on all the nerdy things I love: time travel, computer games, aliens, giant space battles – the lot. I think if I had set about deliberately thinking about how to marry an alien invasion with a completely separate narrative strand about time tourism, it might not have worked as a story, but in the end the plot just evolved naturally in my mind to what you see on the page today. I guess what I’m saying is that the addition of the alien conspiracy wasn’t forced, so for me it tied together with the time travel plot quite nicely in the end.
Is it more difficult to write a time-travel-novel and transship all errors, logical problems and master all rules – or to write a funny science fiction novel?
PW: I think it’s harder to write a funny story than to just be logical and accurate with your continuity. As an author, avoiding errors in your plot requires you to have decent attention to detail, but being funny is more of an art. It was important for me that Time Rep didn’t take itself too seriously, because when the book starts to bend the rules about time travel later on in the story, the reader might not have been so willing to suspend their disbelief.
Do you really think people would prefer to travel to the great catastrophes, battles and into raw eras like medieval – to all the dark spots in history? And if so, why do you think so?
PW: I think it would depend why people were going back in time. If they wanted a nice relaxing holiday, it might not be the best idea to go back and see the Great Fire of London or the extinction of dinosaurs like Geoff does in the book! But if people were going back to study history, they probably wouldn’t visit the time periods when everyone was sitting around eating cakes and having a nice time. If a historian could go back to any period they liked, I think they would visit pivotal moments in history, and those moments usually involve lots of people hitting each other.
The main character Geoff is a lazy videogame-geek – sorry to ask, but: how much Peter Ward is in him? 🙂
PW: Ha ha! There’s certainly a lot of me in Geoffrey Stamp – particularly the version of me twelve years ago when I first started writing the book. Back then, I was lazy and unemployed too, and whilst a lot of that has changed in my life, I’m still a geek at heart, and I love videogames. I think I maintain a better standard of personal hygiene than Geoff though!
You put the first draft of the novel online, where lots of people downloaded it. After that success, you got your print-deal. Do you think it’s harder to get published than 20 or 40 years ago? We have more publishers, we have E-books, but out there is such a flood of professional and semi-professional stuff and also more than ever competition with other media, isn’t it?
PW: I think the publishing landscape has definitely changed, and on the whole I would say it has been for the better. As you say, the only reason Time Rep got discovered was because I put it on the internet and lots of people liked it – I did approach about 40 literary agents beforehand but none of them were interested, so if this had been 20 or 40 years ago, that would have been the end of it. At the same time though, I do agree that although it is great how the internet empowers people to show their work to the world – be it a musician, an author or whatever – it also means there’s a lot more junk to wade through! We live in a world where we are constantly surrounded by media and encouraged to consume as much of it as possible. At times it can all be a little overwhelming.
You worked over six years on Time Rep and now five years on your second book, right? Is it a economic or marketing problem with such longer time-spans between your novels, especially with a look on authors who fire out 2 or more books a year?
PW: I would have liked to have written my books faster, but I did so around a full time job which made it more difficult. However, it did mean I was paid all that time by my employer and was therefore able to put food on the table! In the future though, I am hoping to speed up – you have to remember that my first two books were written without any kind of book deal, so at times it was hard to find the motivation. But now that I’m published, I’m finding it a lot easier to write quickly and hope to have another one finished early next year.* I do however look at some authors and question how a story can be written so fast without compromising the quality, so I don’t feel compelled to accelerate my writing too much.
Hunger Games, Ender’s Game, original SF blockbusters like Oblivion … the SF is actually on the same multimedia-success-path as Fantasy was, when the first Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies came out. Do you like the mass media-attention and audience, or do you have the feeling that it narrows the individualism and innovation of the SF circus, because it’s only the big hunt for the next franchise and the next work “in the tradition or style of” ?
PW: I think there are positives and negatives when a science fiction franchise achieves mass-market attention. On the plus side, it gives exposure to the original work that might not have reached the same sized audience otherwise. On the downside, companies need to spend a lot of money to amplify the franchise across every consumer platform, so they are less inclined to take any risks to ensure they maximize the return on their investment. This means they often homogenize the story towards a more “tried and tested” formula, watering down the unique aspects of the work to broaden its appeal. All too often, this approach ruins the very thing that made the franchise special in the first place, and I think that’s a shame.
If you could travel in time – where would your very first journey go to?
PW: I would go back in time to November so I could go on my honeymoon again to Hawaii!
Thank you for your Time!
* This interview was conducted in December, so the book I am refering to here is the one I finished in January.
To cliché or not cliché…
…that is the question. When it comes to writing, clichés are sometimes difficult to avoid. The room was pitch black. Her dress was snow white. There were weird and wonderful creatures everywhere. She had smouldering eyes. There was a blinding light. We use clichés like this all the time when we talk about things, so it should come as no surprise if you ever find yourself tempted to use one in your book – especially if your book is about a pretty girl in a white dress who lives in a dark room with some strange animals. With dialogue, clichés are particularly tempting, because that’s just how people speak. After all, the reason clichés are clichés is because everybody uses them, so it makes sense for a character to use the odd cliché here and there, particularly if they’re not that imaginative.
Clichés are so ingrained into our culture that it’s often hard to realise when you are using them. Your main character may have hair that flowed like silk, and perhaps her skin crawled at a certain point in the story when she was scared. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing wrong with these descriptions, and there isn’t really. But the fact remains that they are still clichés. As a writer, you might take extra care to avoid resorting to clichés in your plot (unless you’re Dan Brown of course, which you won’t be because no-one famous reads this blog), but are you equally vigilant when it comes to the words you use to tell your story?
And this all leads to the question – is it really that bad to use clichés in your descriptions? The answer really depends on what you are writing, and how high a standard you are setting for yourself. My books aren’t exactly high art, so if a cliché makes it in to the final draft, I’m not particularly bothered – in fact sometimes, I actually think it makes something easier to read. But I will at least be aware of when it is happening, and knowing this makes me try and think of a better way of putting things when it comes to the second draft. For instance, in the very first chapter of Time Rep, the original draft described Geoff’s sofa as being “littered with newspapers.” In the final draft, “newspapers were flung across the sofa.”
Now, this may seem a very minor description to highlight, but I think it points to the role descriptions should play in a story. Done right, descriptions should do more than just paint a picture for the reader. They should be little stories in themselves. Clichés tend to fail in doing anything more than describing the scene because they are too generic, and we just read over them without giving them a second thought. If you take a moment to describe the scene in a more original way though, your words can do so much more.
Think about the newspaper example. When Geoff’s sofa was littered with newspapers, what did you think? Perhaps you thought nothing much, apart from the fact that the sofa was a mess. Or maybe you thought this meant Geoff was a bit of a slob. But that was about it, right? However, when newspapers are flung across the sofa, you start to paint a different picture. You still know that there are newspapers on the sofa, but this time, their placement seems more deliberate, and the fact that they’ve been flung there implies that the mess is a bit more chaotic. It was only a minor change, but I think the reader got a little bit more from that sentence once the cliché was removed. And over the course of a whole book, this practice makes a substantial difference to what the reader gets out of the story.
Right, that’s all I have to say about that. On another note, I thought it might be a good idea to give a quick update on my new book. Basically, the first draft is done, some friends and my agent are reading it, and once I get their feedback, I’ll start to make a few tweaks here and there (assuming they don’t say it’s an unsalvageable mess!). I would love to tell you what it’s about, but until I know whether the thing is actually going to be published, I think it’s best if I keep quiet for now. However, as soon as I can announce something, you will hear it here first, unless you know me, in which case I’ll probably just tell you down the pub.
Stay tuned… (oh dear – what a cliché)
The importance of having a good ending
Having just completed the first draft of my new book (which I’m still not going to talk about just yet I’m afraid), I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of having a good ending to your story. As a reader, it infuriates me when the end of a book leaves me feeling unsatisfied, and it’s especially frustrating when the rest of the story is so strong, only to be let down by a poorly thought out conclusion. For the most part, an author could have written the best story ever conceived, but if it ends badly, the reader’s entire perception of the book can be tainted, spoiling all that hard work they did on the other 95 percent of the book.
The funny thing is, it’s quite common for a poor ending to go hand in hand with a great plot, as in the pursuit of creating a clever storyline, many writers often end up painting themselves into a creative corner that they simply cannot get out of without “cheating.” What do I mean by this? Well, think of a story where the protagonist might be trapped in an inescapable scenario, or a murder might be committed in seemingly impossible circumstances. As the reader gets drawn more and more into the futility of the hero’s escape, or the hopelessness of solving a crime, they begin to form an aspiration for the ending, which they’ll want to be as impossible for them to anticipate as the scenario appears to be resolvable. They’ll want the hero to escape or the crime to be solved, by they’ll want it to be done in a satisfying way that takes them by surprise.
Let’s take the murder mystery plot. Imagine the scene: you have a classic locked room mystery. A man is seen entering his office on the top floor of a skyscraper. There is only one way in or out of the room, through a door which he locks from the inside on entering – the room is too high up for anyone to escape through an open window, and the floor and ceiling are impenetrable. A gunshot is heard from inside the room. The police are called, and in the time they take to arrive, the door is constantly under surveillance by a number of people. No-one enters or leaves the room in that time. When the police arrive, they break down the door and discover the man has been murdered, a gunshot wound to the head. They search the entire room, but there is no-one else inside, and no murder weapon. Now that’s a good plot, right? As a reader, you’ll want to know how the crime was committed, right?
But now the author now has a problem. Having set up the perfect crime, the reader will be enthralled, but at the same time they will have high expectations for a good solution. And if the author doesn’t deliver that solution and has to resort to wrapping things up with a deux ex machina (i.e. a ghost did it) or changing the parameters of the crime scene at the end to explain how the murder was committed (i.e. there was a secret door leading to a terrorist hideout that nobody discovered in the initial investigation), then the reader will not be happy. A poor ending can ruin an otherwise brilliant book, because if a plot doesn’t resolve itself in a satisfying way, then the whole thing is tainted.
So here are some tips from me to ensure your ending rocks:
1) Never ever resort to using deus ex machinas: If your hero is at gunpoint with no way of escape, they should not be saved because the villain gets struck by lightning, or has a heart attack, or gets eaten by a snake, or gets hit by a meteorite, or spontaneously combusts, or turns into a goose.
2) Think about topping off your ending with another ending: Die Hard is a great example of this. You think it’s all over, but then one of the villains comes back from the dead!
3) Be consistent: If your story is built around set rules (i.e. the parameters of the crime scene we discussed earlier), don’t change them at the end for your own convenience so you can wrap everything up. It will only be satisfying to the reader if the problem is solved within the same rules as it was created.
4) Beware of “that’ll do”: As a writer, sometimes you just want to get the bloody thing done. Don’t succumb to that temptation. Keep working on the perfect ending until you know you would be happy with it as a reader.
5) Don’t force it: Sometimes, it’s best to leave your unfinished book in a drawer, go away for a month, then look at it again with a fresh pair of eyes.
6) Recognise when it’s just not working: Sometimes when you can’t think of a good way to end your book, it’s because there is no good way to end your book. In this instance, you’ll need to go back and tweak something earlier in the story to give you the foundations for that ending. It’s painful, but not as painful as just settling for the weaker ending.
7) Things should happen naturally: With a good plot, sometimes you just get a feel for the direction your story should go in. Don’t be afraid to follow this instinct, even if you don’t know where it’s heading. If your ending surprises you, it will surprise your readers too. And that’s a good thing.
8) Think about your characters: What would they do? Would they act the way they are acting? Sometimes, their behaviour will drive your ending, so just let them do what you think they would do and find out how they shape the end of your story.
9) You don’t need to resolve everything: There’s nothing wrong with leaving some unanswered questions or ambiguities in there. In fact, leaving certain things to the reader’s imagination is often better than resolving everything for them.
10) Don’t end midway through a
American Hustle – the great con-trick movie
So I went to see American Hustle the other day. It was alright. Jennifer Lawrence was excellent in it. Christian Bale was pretty good in it. He put on lots of weight for the role, you know. That was about it. After I saw the film, I went home, made some tea, and felt decidedly indifferent about it, like the way I feel after I’ve bought some new socks or eaten a bag of ready salted crisps. American Hustle was neither brilliant enough leave any significantly positive feelings in my mind, nor was it so terrible as to annoy me in any way. It was perfectly average, and that was it. A good three-star film, if you like star ratings.
Then I hear that it’s up for every award ever. I see reviews about how it’s one of the greatest confidence-trickster movies ever. I read that everything about it is simply awesome and that it must be in with a chance of winning every award that isn’t going to be won by 12 Years a Slave (which I haven’t seen) and Gravity (which I have seen and absolutely adored.)
Now American Hustle has my attention. Was it really one of the greatest confidence-trickster movies ever made? I guess it must have been if it could trick the critics into having that sort of reaction. I mean, what is it about this film that is so amazing exactly? Did I miss something? Well, according to the glittering praise being showered on it from most people – yes. Yes, I did miss something. I missed how stunning the performances were. I missed how hilarious it was. I missed how clever the plot was. I missed how perfectly it captured the essence of the era in which it was set.
I’ll say this again – American Hustle is in no way a bad film. It was funny, it was entertaining, and as I said, I thought Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant as Christian Bale’s wife, managing to somehow come across as both bonkers and smart; manipulative yet endearing. You loved her even though she was reckless, a danger to her son, and completely mad. She was hilarious, she delivered a great performance, and the film stepped up several gears whenever she was on screen. At one point when Bale is trying to stop her from going out with him that evening, Mayor Polito (played by Jeremy Renner) says “she’s got to come! She’s the life and soul of the party!” And yes, she really was. But other than that, was this film great? If by ‘great’ we mean a film that people will still be talking about for years to come, then no. It wasn’t great. But it wasn’t bad either.
If I’m honest, there are only three criticisms I have for this film, and none of them are particularly major – the first is the same problem some people will probably have with this review: it was a bit too long. Weighing in at two hours and twenty minutes, it felt slow in places and could easily have had its running time cut down by about half an hour. There were a few ‘arty’ shots clearly favoured by the director that dragged things out (Christian Bale standing in his launderette whilst shirts whizzed around him didn’t add much for me to be honest), and some scenes were over-dialogued and outstayed their welcome.
My second criticism is that I felt the film’s tone was a bit off balance, and I think this had a lot to do with the humour. Now, as I said, I thought this film was funny, but at the same time, the humour needle was swinging all over the place, never knowing if it wanted to settle on goofball shouting, slapstick, sophistication, or visual gags about Renner’s / Bale’s / Cooper’s hair. At the same time, there were some very poignant and touching moments in American Hustle, and many scenes had a quiet sophistication to them. At one point, two characters start to reflect with regret on how they ended up where they are in life. Bale often cuts a tragic figure. But then a joke would appear out of nowhere about hair curlers. It almost felt as though an early draft of this film might have been more serious, but then another writer was brought in to overlay some gags to give the story an extra dimension. I’m not saying a film isn’t allowed to cover a broad emotional range, but in this instance something wasn’t right. Watching American Hustle felt as though I was being asked to eat a plate of chips, jelly beans and crispy aromatic duck at once: individually I love those things, but if were ever to eat them together I think I’d feel a bit weird.
My final point of criticism is tricky to describe – I felt unsatisfied with the film in some way, but I can’t put my finger on what it was. I think the script was perhaps a little loose, not capitalising on its twist as well as it could have, and overall there was just something missing – that extra depth that would have helped me have more of an emotional engagement with the story. It was fine, but not a film I would ever feel compelled to watch again. Indifferent.
And this is what bothers me. For a film so average, why the hell is it getting all this praise from everyone else? Well, I’ve had a bit of a think about this, and there are two possibilities:
1) I’m wrong about American Hustle, and it is actually brilliant. This is perfectly possible. I’m wrong about a lot of things, like that time I thought it would be a good idea to buy Paul Blart: Mall Cop on DVD.
2) I’m right. American Hustle looks great on paper with its heavyweight cast, retro setting and acclaimed director, and critics are too intimidated by their own expectations to turn in an honest review.
So there we go. I know I’m in the minority with this one, but American Hustle just didn’t do it for me. I didn’t find it offensively awful like The Hobbit, but nor did it blow my mind afterwards. It was fine. It was okay. It did a job. And it will win some awards.
But will we be talking about it in five years time? Only time will tell.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Peter Jackson
If there’s one thing that’s really beginning to annoy me at the moment, it’s the recent trend of awful films getting excellent reviews from the critics, and then going on to do amazingly well at the box office. And it’s not as though people feel conned after paying to go and see these movies. They don’t walk out of the cinema thinking “why on Earth did that film get five stars in the paper?” No, these films seem to be able to convince audiences and critics alike that they are modern-day masterpieces, when in fact they are just poorly written, overly-expensive blockbusters. It’s as though the standards of what should we should expect from a five star film are being lowered.
Up until recently, the major offender in this category for me was the last James Bond film, Skyfall. Now don’t get me wrong – I love a bit of James Bond. I’ve got all the films on DVD, and whilst the series has had its ups and downs (Quantum of Solace, anyone?), I’ve always enjoyed watching them. I know they’re stupid, I know they’re cheesy, and I know that many of them have a lot to answer for in terms of their representation of women, but somehow they’ve always been a guilty pleasure for me. Especially the Roger Moore ones.
So let’s just get one thing straight here – I’m not just saying Skyfall isn’t a great film, I’m saying it’s a terrible film.
I simply cannot understand why the critics loved it so much. Even by the storytelling standards of the series (which were never that high, let’s be honest,) the plot of this film made no sense whatsoever. For those of you who haven’t wasted two hours of your life seeing it, let me summarise (and spoil) what happens for you: Bond gets shot and falls off a bridge. MI6 presume he is dead. Then he sees a news story about MI6 being bombed and comes back. Later, Javier Bardem pretends to try to and stop Bond from finding his hideout on a remote island, so he can allow himself to be captured by MI6 without them realising he wants to be captured so he can escape again and then come back later to try to kill M, even though he had about twenty opportunities to just kill her anyway. He does this because he is weird and wants to toy with her. So Bond takes M to his family estate in Scotland where they fill light bulbs with gunpowder, set some booby traps and re-enact the finale from Home Alone. And Bond falls in a lake.
I know a film should be judged on more than just its plot, but as plots go, this one was total, total, total, total arse. If Skyfall hadn’t taken itself so seriously I might have forgiven it, but there was not one nod to the camera about how ridiculous this all was – the audience was just supposed to sit there and marvel in this faux-genius web of twists and turns, when in fact what they were actually watching was some characters behaving in ways completely contrived so the story could move on to the next set-piece. “Mr Bond! I knew months ago that when I escaped from my prison cell you would chase me down this tunnel, so now I am going to warn you that I am going to set off a bomb to make an empty tube train crash through a wall and completely miss you!”
So you might have worked out by now that I’m not a fan of Skyfall, and that the DVD was not on my Christmas list. However, whatever my feelings are for Skyfall, that film looks like Goldfinger when compared to The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in the trilogy of Hobbit movies based on the sole, single, solitary, one-off book called The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
This film was absolutely terrible. In fact it was so bad, as I left the cinema I felt as though I’d just lost a piece of my soul. And yet, as with Skyfall, the critics were raving about how amazing this film was.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
The Hobbit was the first ‘grown up’ book I ever read when I was seven, so I’ll admit I am a little protective of it. Of course, I understand that changes sometimes need to be made when translating a book to the silver screen, but when the translation is so obviously motivated by the desire to leverage the caché of Lord of the Rings (when was Saruman ever in the original story?) and stretch the narrative out to breaking point in order to squeeze three films out of one novel, I get a little miffed.
There is a reason The Hobbit is regarded as a classic novel, and that is because it gets a lot of things right. Here are five of those things:
1) It is the right length.
2) Bilbo’s character arc is well crafted, in that he does not discover his bravery a third of the way through the book, then become a coward again, then discover his bravery again, then become a coward again, then discover his bravery again.
3) There are no interwoven love stories between elves and dwarves getting in the way of the central plot.
4) The character of Smaug is fantastic because he is unexpectedly clever, and does not allow himself to get outwitted and baited by some dwarves splitting off in different directions, swinging around on chains and making a giant gold statue of a dwarf king to mesmerise him for 3 seconds. The fact that he is smart makes him a formidable foe.
5) It’s great how we don’t find out what Gandalf was up to when he left the dwarves for a large chunk of the story, as this allows our imagination to take over and create a mystique around his quest that could not be achieved otherwise.
There are many other qualities I haven’t touched on, but you get the idea – the book is great.
Peter Jackson obviously thought he could do better than Tolkien with the story, so the things I listed above were changed a little (or indeed, reversed). Also, we got to see that scene we always wanted where Orlando Bloom fires some arrows.
Honestly – for an encore, why not make a film of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, but throw in a few car chases during the slow bits? More than that, why not make all the characters find out that Perdita is really royalty after the first act, then make them forget again, then make them remember again? And why not insert a love scene between the bear that pursues Antigonus off stage and another bear we don’t find out about in the original?
Okay, that’s enough ranting. Until next time!
Book number 3 – complete!
Right – I am very pleased to say that I have now completed the first draft of my latest book, which means I now have a bit of free time to start writing a few more blog posts. Thank you for your patience over these last couple of months, but hopefully you understand how important it was for me to prioritise finishing it!
As I’ve said in some previous posts, I’m not going to announce anything about the new book yet, since various people need to see it before I can say anything. I’ve got a title in mind, but the publisher (if indeed the publisher is interested) may want to change it, they might want me to re-write certain parts, so until I know it’s definitely coming out, I’m going to keep quiet. But do watch this space – hopefully I’ll be able to say more soon…
So I’m now in that strange come-down period after having finished a novel. It’s a very weird feeling (which I’ve only experience twice before, admittedly), since writing a book is a massive part of your life, and when it’s done you feel a mixture of satisfaction, excitement at what others will think (I haven’t showed it to anyone yet), and in a strange way, emptiness. You are still consumed with thoughts about what you have written , but it isn’t the same – you’re not thinking about how the story should progress, you’re thinking of little tweaks you might want to make here and there, whether a description should be improved, if the dialogue sounds right in that scene you’re not sure about – your thoughts become more fragmented, as less concerned with the whole. Basically, asides from some tweaks here and there, that story has left my brain, and been committed to paper. Or computer screen, if you’re being pedantic.
Yesterday was odd – I spent the entire day writing the final 7,500 words, with my wife saying she felt like she should be mopping my brow in-between chapters as you would do to a boxer in-between rounds. In the end there was no brow-mopping required, although she did bring me about ten cups over the course of the day, which helped enormously. Anyway, so I spent the day wrapping up the final set-pieces and completing the closing chapters. I didn’t finish all this until about three in the morning, and after that I was so excited that it was finished I couldn’t sleep! When you finish a book, you don’t just wipe your hands and go “done!” – you keep thinking about tweaks, and thinking about tweaks, and thinking about tweaks. You then think about tweaks some more.
But it does feel good to have book number three under my belt, even if it is just a first draft for now. Given I have a full-time job, writing a book in my spare time is bloody hard work, so it makes me very excited when I actually complete one.
I hope you’re all excited too when you see what it is…
I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year.
I’m sorry I haven’t been writing much on the site lately, but as I’ve said in previous posts, this is so I can spend more time working on my new book. I’m pleased to report that unlike my last two books (which took about five years each to complete), I’m getting much faster at writing now, and hope to have first draft ready by January / February 2014.
Whether or not the thing gets published is another matter entirely (I don’t count my chickens before they are hatched, regardless of my previous successes), but hopefully the powers that be will like what I’ve written, and the book will be available for people to read at some point next year.
But what is the new story about? You’ll just have to wait to find out!
Until next time…
I just thought I’d let you know that Time Rep is 50% off today as part of the 50% off fifty books promotion by the lovely people at Diversion Books. However, as I was writing this, I figured most of you probably already own a copy of Time Rep, so instead of going there to confirm that my book is indeed being sold for half price and then not buying it, why not check out some of the other great books available? Here’s the link: http://www.diversionbooks.com/ebooks/featured
Apparently this promotion is something to do with Cyber Monday, which we don’t have over here in England. What is Cyber Monday anyway? A day when all the robots stop working for a day so everyone appreciates the value they add to the community? Who thinks up this stuff?
In addition to Cyber Monday, I think we should also have the following days:
Electric Tuesday: A day in which everything powered by electricity will only work if connected to an exercise bike. With you pedalling it.
Wednesday Wednesday: A day in which the grammar checker in Microsoft Word stops working so you can’t tell when you’ve written a word twice by mistake.
Turbo Thursday: Adayinwhichpeoplespeakreallyfasttoseeifitmakesthemmoreproductive.
Black Friday: A day in which you feel compelled to beat the hell out of other customers whilst shopping to make sure you get the last discount television. Oh wait – that one already exists, doesn’t it?
Silicon Saturday: A day in which you struggle to think of something funny to do with silicon but keep the name anyway because you like the alliteration.
Sumday Sunday: A day in which all calculators will only allow you to add numbers together.
Right, that’e enough of that. If you don’t yet own a copy of Time Rep (or have downloaded it by narferious means because you couldn’t be bothered to shell out $3.99 for a legitate copy), now is your chance to redeem yourself!
So the results are in, and it turns out Time Rep wasn’t the winner of the Leserpreis 2013. It did manage to come in at 14th out of the 35 finalists though, which I’m pretty pleased about considering it’s only been out in Germany since October 15th. Plus it was up against books by Terry Pratchett and George R. R. R. R. R. R. Martin, so vistory was never really a possibility in my mind! Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone who voted for me, particularly since the site was one of the most complicated things to navigate if you wanted to cast a vote. Even I didn’t vote for my own book because I got bored of trying to work out how to do it, so that really be saying something…
Anyway, I’m going to stop there because I’m right in the middle of the new book, and I’m sure you’d all rather that was completed as quickly as possible rather than me spending too much time churning out entertaining blog posts! As I said in an earlier post, I will keep the site updated with some amusing ramblings now and again, but it might be a little less frequent as I work on getting the new book over the finish line.
See you soon, and thanks again for all your support!
My cat has reviewed Note to Self
Yes, you read that correctly – my cat Matilda has just finished reading Note to Self, and has even written a full review of it.
Don’t beleive me? Here are some photos to prove it. She needed help turning the pages but otherwise she managed quite well:
Anyway, here’s Matilda’s review:
Hello there. My name is Matilda and apparently I now review books. I mean really. Anyway, I read Peter’s book called Note to Self and I have to say that I didn’t really like it. The reason I didn’t like it was because there was hardly any mention of birds or string or laps or food in it and those are the only things I find interesting, so in general I found it lacking any kind of appeal for cat readers. I was also quite unhappy at one point because in an early chapter there was another cat in it, and I don’t like other cats. Overall I give it two meows out of sixteen.
UPDATE: Peter has now given me some chicken so I have decided to change my score to three meows out of sixteen.
Time Rep is up for an award – the best sci-fi book of 2013!
Well I never – it turns out that the German edition of Time Rep has been nominated for an award – the best sci-fi book of 2013!
I’m still re-reading the e-mail from the organisers to make sure I understand all this correctly, but apparently it’s up for the “Leserpreis”, which is the biggest people’s book award in Germany. Over the past few weeks, more than 15,000 readers had the opportunity to nominate over 4,000 books across 15 different categories, and Time Rep (Or should I say ‘Invaders”) made it to the final!
The next step is for readers to vote for their favourite books until November 28th. On Friday, November 29th, the Leserpreis in Gold, Silver and Bronze will be awarded. So, if you fancy popping over to the website and voting for Invaders, that would be marvellous!
Here’s the link: http://www.lovelybooks.de/leserpreis/2013/science-fiction/
Thanks very much, and wish me luck!
Apologies for not updating my blog so much recently, although I assure you it’s for a good reason – I’ve been spending a lot of time working a new story which I think will appeal to the three people who liked Time Rep. I’m not going to give anything else away for now, but rest assured I am spending a lot of time writing at the moment and hope to have something to show you soon.
In the meantime, I have a few pieces of housekeeping to take care of. First of all, in the hubbub of getting married and going away on honeymoon and buying a carpet cleaner, I completely neglected to say hello to my new readers in Germany, who have just been blessed (or perhaps that should read ‘inflicted’) with the German translation of Time Rep. The publisher decided to change the title to Invaders because apparently Time Rep doesn’t translate particularly well. I do like the cover though – very space-y and with a nice little space invader in the ‘d’:
Secondly, I heard a great joke the other day which I have to share with you. It concerns Thor 2: The Dark World. Are you ready? Here goes:A: “I hope the Thor franchise does well enough so they eventually make a Thor 5.” B: “Why’s that?” A: “Because then I can go up to the person in the ticket office and say One to see Thor five.”
That’s my new favourite joke at the moment. In case you were wondering, my favourite joke before that one was courtesy of Tim Vine:“I watched three DVDs back to back the other night with my girlfriend. Fortunately I was the one facing the television.”
And finally, a warning: If you’re out and about in the supermarket this Christmas, you may notice that Pringles have released some limited edition flavours. The sweet cinnamon one is alright, but whatever you do, do not try the mint chocolate flavoured ones. Yes, you read that right – there is a Pringles CRISP that tastes of CHOCOLATE. It is wrong on so many levels I’m almost tempted to write to my MP and see if a law can be passed making it illegal to sell them. You have been warned!
I think that’s all for now. I will try and keep this blog updated with new entries as best I can, but if I’m gone a little longer than usual, it will be because I’m working on the new book.
Until next time!
Got married, went to Hawaii, the usual
Sorry I’ve been away for so long – Lucy and I got married on the 12th October, and two days after that I took her on a surprise honeymoon to Hawaii for 8 days, which she was very happy about. Whilst we were away, I switched my phone off, didn’t check any e-mails, didn’t look at how the books were doing, in fact we completely cut ourselves off from the outside world, and it was magical. Hawaii is a wonderful place, and it was by far the best holiday we’ve ever been on. We only got back yesterday after a 24-hour journey, and after catching up on what happened in The Great British Bake Off (the first priority once we got home), we both went to bed and slept for 15 hours.
In case you’re interested, here are some holiday snaps of me looking very English and not knowing how I should be dressed in a tropical climate:
So here are the top things I learnt from travelling to Hawaii:
1) Walking along the beach in your bare feet is wonderful, until you realise it’s midday and the sand is boiling hot.
2) Wearing socks in Hawaii is just stupid.
3) Wearing jeans in Hawaii is just stupid.
4) A 1 litre bottle of Mountain Dew has 120g of sugar in it, which I only realised after I drank the whole thing and went on a sugar-high rampage.
5) If you have pale skin and look awkward and English, it’s impossible not to look like an awkward, pale-skinned English tourist.
6) Applying factor 110 suntan lotion every two hours still isn’t enough to stop you from burning in the midday sun.
7) The are at least 55 ABC stores within a one mile radius of where you are standing, and they all sell exactly the same thing.
8) Everyone in Hawaii is ridiculously friendly and chilled out, but then I suppose you would be if you lived somewhere that beautiful.
9) The portion sizes in Red Lobster restaurants are massive.
10) I can handle about ten bottles of Hawaiian beer before attempting to take my shorts off over my head.
11) You can’t take your shorts off over your head.
12) Everyone on the coast stops to watch the sunset, and even gives it a round of applause. Well done Sun!
13) My feet do not agree with flip flops that have the bit that goes between the big toe and the toe next to it.
14) The buffet breakfast at the Trump International Hotel can sustain a person for two days.
15) I’m useless at working out which American coins are which.
16) You get asked for ID when you order a beer. It makes you feel young again until you realise it’s the law to ask everyone for ID no matter how old they look.
17) There are more than five stars in the sky at night, which is all you can see in London.
18) Aloha! It’s a nice word.
19) My book isn’t sold in any bookshop in Hawaii. And I really looked hard.
20) Swimming in the sea and then seeing a massive sea turtle next to you is awe-inspiring. And they nibble things.
21) Luggage does its own thing. Like staying behind at an airport you’re flying home from.
So there you have it. We really had a fabulous time, and I strongly recommend Hawaii if you’re thinking of going somewhere to chill out and relax. However, if you want to go somewhere to get all angry and stressed out, don’t bother going, because it’s impossible.
I’ve done another interview about Note to Self…
… and you can check it out by clicking here. If you like.
What’s the most fun you can have for under $2?
Why, buying Time Rep at half the normal price obviously, which you can now do this weekend at Barnes and Noble by clicking here! And then clicking on the book. And then buying it. Simple!
Once you’ve bought it, you’ll need to read it as well of course, because the buying part on its own probably isn’t that much fun. I buy things all the time, and it’s rubbish – it’s using the thing that I’ve bought that’s the good bit. So to clarify, buying Time Rep at half price isn’t the most fun you can have for under $2, but reading it most certainly is. Maybe. You’ll also need to enjoy comedy time travel mysteries full of nerdy references and jokes about supermarket conveyor belts, because if you don’t, you’re not going to like it much. It might help if you like computer games and seagulls as well, but if you don’t you’ll probably still have fun with it.
Anyway, that was it, just a quick note to let you know in a very long-winded way that Time Rep is now on a half price promotion at Barnes and Noble. Hooray!