Happy Birthday Doctor Who

Okay, so it's not a particularly auspicious birthday.  It's not a round number or an even number.  But the 51st year of the show which kickstarted my childhood imagination and has given me plenty of writing opportunities is certainly worth celebrating.

So I've written about my favourite Doctor Who stories for the BT website.  It was tough to assign actual numbers to these stories - especially when it came to the Number One slot.  I'll also admit to having gone easy on the site's readers and not included some of my more... idiosyncratic... choices like 1977's The Invisible Enemy or 1978's The Invasion of Time.  But it was fun.

So far, I've only received two incredulous social messages starting "WOT, NO [insert excluded story here]?!?!?!"  Very much hoping to better this by midnight.  Perhaps you could help out in comments below?


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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the country, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

Welsh Wallace's Campaign And The Welfare Reform Act

Welsh Wallace
Hello!  I want to lead your eyes towards a GoFundMe campaign by the blind artist Welsh Wallace.  That's not her real name, funnily enough, but when she shares her true identity online it makes it all the easier for people to verbally abuse her.

That's what a minority of confused, frightened, frustrated people do these days: they "call out" disabled people who they believe are fakers.  The government and The Daily Mail have done a scarily efficient job of demonising the disabled, these last few years.  By making benefit fraud seem a far bigger problem than it actually is - bigger than, for instance, bankers needing unimaginable sums of money to bail them out of the trouble they caused for themselves - and casting doubt on the genuine nature of sickness and disability claims, the Welfare Reform Act created a culture of suspicion, paranoia and blame, directed at the poor, the ill and the disabled.

Clearly, genuinely fraudulent benefit claims needed to be dealt with.  Yet to say that babies were thrown out with bathwater would be to grossly understate the case, given the horrendous consequences.  Many, many thousands of ill and disabled people have reportedly died as a result of having their benefits taken away, after being systematically 'assessed' by the government-appointed company ATOS.  The relative lack of uproar shocked me.  Don't get me wrong: plenty of people railed against the madness.  But on Twitter, I often felt I was seeing more people complain about other users employing manual RTs, for instance, than about this glorified social cull.  Thankfully, protest groups like writer/comedian Francesca Martinez's WOW Campaign have taken the government to task and continue to pressurise them to officially assess the Welfare Reform Act's horrific impact.  The United Nations are apparently also assessing potential human rights violations.

A 'conker bowl', designed and created by Welsh Wallace
Back to Welsh Wallace, then.  Through social media communication and phone conversations with her, I've seen her face the kind of adversity that would honestly have most of us curled up in a corner, gibbering.  She lost her sight a few years back as a result of head injuries and since then it's been one long struggle.  Authorities have placed every conceivable obstacle in her path, from benefit sanctions to the local council refusing to send bills out in braille.  She has suffered the most insanely ignorant online abuse from people who can't believe a blind person can create art, so therefore she must be faking.  She's had abuse in person too, and I wish I could tell you more about that.  I wish I could tell you many more things about Welsh Wallace, but unfortunately she'd kill me.  The latest obstacle she's faced, though, is cancer and subsequent operations.  I spoke to her after her initial diagnosis and have never heard someone facing such uncertainty, yet putting such a very brave face on it all.

Having emerged from hospital, she has a new lease of life and a new goal: she wants to get her online shop back up and running.  The shop through which she sells her amazing clay work.  The shop which she has sporadically had to close in the past, either because the verbal abuse became too much to take, or because her health faltered, or because she had to prioritise things like eating and paying bills, rather than buying clay.  Given that she's an intensely proud and stubborn individual, it's very pleasantly surprising that she is finally asking us for help in getting the shop back up and running on October 1.

Inside that conker bowl
The crowd-funding campaign page is here.  I would love it if you joined me in slinging some cash Welsh Wallace's way.  There are some very nice perks for pledgers.  If you can't afford to pledge but still want to help, then please share the campaign.  If the campaign has already ended when you read this, then check out the Grand Opening Facebook page for her shop.  This the first time Welsh Wallace has directly asked us for help, and I'd dearly love to see her get it.  Thanks!

UPDATE: Wallace's initial £350 target was met in 24 hours!  Her stretch goal now, if more funds are raised, will be to buy "a GPS guide that will allow me to walk outside without a guide giving me complete independence to go for a walk whenever I want without having to pre plan or save up to hire a guide."  See her campaign update # 3 here.


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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the country, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

The Greatest Novels Of 2014 So Far, Chosen By Twitter

We're halfway through the year.  How'd you like them apples, Charlie?

To mark the occasion, I asked Twitter-folk to tell me the one best 2014-released fiction novel they've read so far.  It's clearly an imperfect science, canvassing opinions like this.  Depends on who happens to be passing by on Twitter, instead of getting work done.  But when someone takes the time to enthuse about someone else's novel, even in the breath of a tweet, it's surely worth checking out.

So here are the novels people tweeted back about, in absolutely no particular order.  Neatly, there are 20 of them - a pleasing mix of Big Five, indie and self-pub.  Of genres, too.  I'm including the recommendations of tweeters who have read proofs or review copies of books coming out later in the year.  If the hardback came out last year but the paperback came out this year, I included the title. All book-title links go to Amazon, while clicking author names takes you to their Twitter profiles where applicable.

The Girl With All The Gifts - M.R.Carey (Orbit)

Terra's World - Mitch Benn (Gollancz)

Resistance - Samit Basu (Titan)

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade - Den Patrick (Gollancz)

The Three - Sarah Lotz (Hodder & Stoughton)

The Martian - Andy Weir (Del Rey)

The JackPort Killer - Kneel Downe (Lulu.com)

An Officer And A Spy - Robert Harris (Arrow)

The Incorruptibles - John Hornor Jacobs (Gollancz)

The Cormorant - Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot)

The Humans - Matt Haig (Canongate)

Words Of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)

The Dark Inside - Rupert Wallis (Simon & Schuster Children's Books)

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt (Little, Brown)

Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith (Electric Monkey)

Smiler's Fair - Rebecca Levene (Hodder & Stoughton)

Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) - Jeff VanderMeer (Fourth Estate)

Galveston - Nic Pizzolatto (Sphere)

California Bones - Greg van Eekhout (Tor)

Dirty Magic - Jaye Wells (Orbit)

Because it's my blog, I get to throw in a further three great books not mentioned above and you cannot stop me.  You are powerless and can only watch as the words pour forth:


So what about you?  Want to lend an extra tip of your hat to one of the above?  Or recommend one amazing 2014 release which isn't listed above and which you didn't write yo'self?  Go right ahead, in Comments below, you irrepressible scamp.


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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the country, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

Five Things You May Not Know About Twitter

Twitter has been around since 2006 (yes, I know, terrifying), but it still holds small mysteries.  Little quirks that some folk miss out on or misunderstand.  You might very well know them all, but if just one blows your skirts up then my work here is done.

1) HOW TO NARROW YOUR AUDIENCE
If you start a tweet with a username, then only people who follow you both will see it.  I still see relatively seasoned Twitter users do this.

For instance, if I tweet the following...

@johnhiggs' book on The KLF is mind-blowing - read it now!

... then only people who follow both me and @johnhiggs will see it.  Which is a waste.

In case this confuses you, think of it in terms of tweeting directly at @johnhiggs, rather than tweeting about him.  In the former case, it's generally well known that only people who follow you both can see the tweet.  But when you're tweeting about someone, it seems like a whole other situation.  To Twitter, it isn't.  That tends to be why you often see tweets starting with a full-stop, followed by a username - it starts the tweet with a buffer before the username, so Twitter doesn't misunderstand and shows all your followers the tweet, just like you want it to, you attention-hungry, power-crazed MONSTER.

Incidentally, that full-stop isn't some kind of specific code - it's just the most-used buffer symbol.  You could start with a '&' or a '$', but it might well look more obstrusive.

2) USERNAMES AREN'T CASE SENSITIVE...
There's no need to search for someone's username to check up on whether it should be written as @PumpkinFace666, @Pumpkinface666 or even @pumpkinface666.  Twitter doesn't care - it recognises them all as the same person.  Otherwise @StephenFry would be plagued by copycats with the name @StEpHeNfRy and the like.  Many Twitter clients correct your version to however the user normally presents it themselves anyway.

Same goes for hashtags.  #SetFireToYourHeadDay equals #Setfiretoyourheadday, equals #setfiretoyourheadday.

3) LISTS CAN BE USEFUL, NO, REALLY, COME BACK
Twitter lists have fallen by the wayside over the years.  A while back, I gathered together various lists of various types of Twitter users and occasionally maintain them now, but mostly forget to tell people about them.  Here they are, if you're interested.

These days, I have one main use for lists - to help me filter my feed.  I have a private Priority list of people whose tweets I really don't want to miss.  This is installed in my Tweetdeck, but most apps (I use the mighty Tweetbot) should let you manage lists too.  And no, I'm not telling you who's on the list.  And yes, I do of course still read the main feed - the Priority list is just a handy tool.

4) DON'T FRET OVER APOSTROPHES
Or at least, don't fret over them when it comes to putting them at the very end of usernames in tweets.  Usernames can only ever consist of letters, numbers or underscores, so apostrophes won't upset the apple-cart if you add one right at the end.

So you can tweet...

I am loving @SarahLotz1's The Three!

or

I can't wait to get my hands on @LaurenBeukes' new novel Broken Monsters!

or

.@JasonArnopp's tweets drive me insane with boredom, and yet lust, which confuses me!

...there's no need for a funny-lookin' space in between the username and the apostrophe, which is good to know if you're tight on space.

5) CALL OFF THE STAT-ATTACK

If you align your Twitter account with a statistical analysis app which regularly tweets this kind of thing to followers on your behalf...

New followers this week: 256,021
RTs this week: 2,768,098
My tweets favourited this week: 10,000,001

... most people will think you're a buffoon and probably unfollow you.

You're welcome.  And so are your followers.

But I know you wouldn't do that.  You are, after all, smart enough to read this post.  You're special and I adore the very bones out of you.

Good day to you.

I SAID GOOD DAY.

(Got a handy Twitter tip of your own that you'd like to share?  Do so in Comments below...)

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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the countryside, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Read it before someone spoilers you!  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

Five Reasons To Read Your Work Aloud

I enjoy the editing process.  The knowledge that you’re boiling your work down to its bare bones; that every nip and tuck improves what you have.  After a few passes, though, it becomes hard to see the words for the trees.  You lose perspective.  You know that typos, logic problems and awkward sentences still lurk on these pages, but you can no longer see them.  Your eyes have become so accustomed to these words that they’re overlooking what they need to zero right in on.

That’s when you open your toolbox and employ a different technique.  You read your work aloud, opening up a whole new world of editing potential.  Five reasons why:

1) Reading stuff aloud forces each and every word to earn its keep.  This is why you must read it yourself, rather than getting some voice-software programme to do the honours.  The very act of rallying all those small muscles and making sounds rise up out of your voice-box changes your perspective.  You’re forced to say every single word.  Suddenly, you’re not so inclined to hand free passes to superfluous, inappropriate or just plain stupid words, sentences, paragraphs or even whole sections.

2) Your eyes don’t need to pause for breath, but your mouth does.  So when you’re reading your stuff aloud, those over-long and ungainly sentences become screamingly apparent.  You physically feel those problems.  You’d taken it for granted that they were fine, because your eyes could flit right over them, but your lungs find them way less zippy.  If you’re out of breath by the end of a sentence, then it’s probably too long.  Unless of course a sentence is supposed to have that freefalling, overwhelming, stream-of-consciousness effect.  There are always exceptions.

3) You know that dialogue of yours?  It’s supposed to be stuff characters actually would and could say.  If you’re writing a script, then actors will actually have to say it.  Prose dialogue needs to flow just as naturally, without snagging in your reader’s brain – or, for that matter, the reader of the eventual audiobook.  So when you actually speak dialogue aloud, you soon realise if you’ve been kidding yourself about this stuff.  Maybe it’s too much of a mouthful.  Maybe it’s too rat-a-tat-tat staccato for anyone to actually say.  Maybe it doesn’t reflect the emotion or attitude you were gunning for.  You also get to check whether these words really do fit the character’s dialect.  Especially if you can do accents.

4) Reading your characters’ thoughts and spoken words aloud brings you closer to them.  Sure, you poured untold empathy and emotion into them on the page, but something about physically saying that stuff slides you right inside their skin.  For the duration of this read, you are them, regardless of acting ability.

5) Reading your work aloud makes it feel more real, reminding you that others will try to engage with it.  As you go, imagine you’re giving a reading in a crowded bookshop.  The pressure mounts.  How proud of this stuff do you feel?  Applying that kind of criterion to your work makes you stricter with the old red pen.  And again, you become far more conscious of how crisply and neatly these words fall off the tongue.

Just try not to read 37,000 words in one day, as I did yesterday.  Croak...

Another edit-related post from me, Ten Screw-Ups You'll Fix In Draft Two.

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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My 10,000-word short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My dark thriller novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the countryside, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Read it before someone spoilers you!  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My Amazon-acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else

The British Fantasy Society Awards 2014


Just an uncharacteristically brief post to say that I'll once again serve jury duty for the British Fantasy Society Awards 2014.  I'm handling Non Fiction in the distinguished company of Djbril al-Ayed and Emma Newman.  You can see the full list of juries here.

And here's the full list of nominees.  Naturally, I'm always especially interested in the Best Horror Novel category, which this year sees some really fierce competition between great books from the likes of Lauren Beukes, Sarah Pinborough and Joe Hill.  Quite frankly, I'm glad I don't have the task of judging that one.

Bye for now!

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Want to feel afraid in your own home?  My 10,000-word short story A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home can help.  Presented as a letter to YOU which is delivered to YOUR house, this grave warning from the previous resident tells you things you really don't want to hear.  A Sincere Warning... can be purchased as a low-priced ebook or as a uniquely personalised physical letter which is mailed to your home address!  Full details at ScaryLetter.com

My dark thriller novella Beast In The Basement is a twisted tale of obsession, revenge, censorship, blame culture and parental responsibility.  In a big house in the countryside, an increasingly unstable author toils over a new hotly-anticipated novel which will close the best-selling trilogy of Jade Nexus books.  A violent incident tips him into a downward spiral with horrific consequences.  Read it before someone spoilers you!  Beast is available for Kindle (which can be read on most devices) at Amazon UK, Amazon US and more.  It's also available as half of Brandy In The Basement, a collaboration with JMR Higgs.  More details here.

My Amazon-acclaimed non-fiction ebook How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else aims to tell you everything I learned about interviewing people, in my past life as a journalist.  It's available via Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Germany, among others.  You can also buy it direct from me, in a Triple Pack of all three major file-types (PDF, ePub, Kindle), via PayPal.  Full details here, you splendid individual.

How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else