<![CDATA[JASON ARNOPP: AUTHOR, SCRIPTWRITER, JOURNALIST, COPYWRITER - Blog]]>Sun, 20 Oct 2019 10:40:07 +0100Weebly<![CDATA[How to grow comfortable with other people's judgement]]>Sat, 19 Oct 2019 11:31:50 GMT/blog/how-to-grow-comfortable-with-being-judged
​Like so many potentially intimidating things in life, judgement is inevitable. We cast our own nano-second judgements on other people, all day, every day, regardless of whether we’re on Tinder, reading Twitter (oh dear God, the Twitter court room, where people are either Good or Evil) or walking down the street. For better or for worse, it’s what we humans do. Meerkats almost certainly don’t mentally rate the attractiveness or intelligence of other meerkats out of 10 on first sight, or even twenty-seventh sight, but it seems our judgemental nature is simply a cross we have to bear. And obviously, if we’re judging others then it stands to reason that we’re being judged ourselves.

Creative folk are particularly prone to fearing the judgement of others, perhaps because we hand-build our little castles out of thin air. Depending on our levels of self-esteem (usually quite low, but spiking weirdly high at the moment we decide to build this castle that the entire world simply must see!), our castle may feel like it’s constructed from titanium or toilet tissue. If we can even attract visitors in the first place, then they will make their judgements and splurge them onto the internet, often with little consideration for the feelings of us, the architects and builders.

If you’re going to build a castle, then you have to accept that some people are going to hate it. That's just part of the whole castle-building game. Yeah, some people would quite happily swing a wrecking ball at the gaff and reduce it to rubble. They consider their visit to your castle to be a complete waste of their time and money (yes, money. You did remember to set a door price, right?)

It makes no sense at all, however, to open your castle to the viewing public, then allow a handful of disgruntled customers to cancel out all the pride that hundreds of happy customers had hitherto instilled in you. Me? Provided there’s a generally favourable consensus, I am happiness itself. Any number of negative, or even hateful, reviews of my castle are fine by me. My favourite negative review of my 2016 novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks read, quite simply, “Stupid book.” That one was, in fact, very funny, not least because it somehow conjures up an image of a guy in a baseball cap with his brow furrowed and his arms crossed.

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why that sort of thing doesn’t bother me, and I think I’ve come up with the answer. It also seems to be the reason why, especially these days, I also find myself less bothered about being the subject of more personal judgements.

We all react well to things with which we have chemistry. And what controls this chemistry? Our preferences, which tend to become increasingly cemented into us as time goes by and we become more set in our ways.

Each person has a complex series of settings in their head. This vast array of dip-switches govern how much they like everything, from a novel to a tweet to someone new on Tinder to a potential life partner.

When you’re flicking through a novel, your preferences dictate your level of chemistry with the imaginary world with which the author wants you to engage.

When you’re flicking through Tinder, people mostly strike you as either attractive or unattractive, based on your preferences. When you meet someone from Tinder for a drink, your preferences, when overlaid on their preferences, dictate whether the two of you have chemistry or end up pretending to have other places you need to be after an hour.

When you’re flicking through Twitter, you’ll hit Like or RT based on… okay, I think you get the picture. All of this is basically quite a coldly scientific and roundabout way of saying that people’s judgement can be more about them than you. Even when they’re judging the most personal aspects of you (your nose, your fragile poem about beauty, or even your frenzied performance in that XHamster video), it’s literally about them and their preferences – the way they view the world and the metrics they apply to that world. Sure, it is about you, but only in an abstract and wholly subjective way.

Accept the following and you may end up a great deal happier: regardless of how many people mistake their opinions for facts, there is no such thing as a concrete, definitive judgement of any aspect of you or your work.

So, then. Where am I going with this, in terms of, say, dealing with bad reviews as a writer? Am I going to tell you that the reader’s opinion doesn’t matter because it’s all just preferences, chemistry and abstract subjectivity?

God no. Not at all. My readers’ opinions matter to me enormously. I want my readers to love my books. This is partly because I’d like them to buy the next one and/or plunder my back catalogue, so that I can continue to build my readership and career. But also, on the level of a simple transaction, they’ve devoted time and money to giving my work a chance. There’s a real sense of responsibility and accountability there that cannot, and in my opinion should not, be denied. To put it in cold, corporate terms, I've created a product for a customer to consume and hopefully enjoy.

While this sense of accountability might seem incompatible with the idea that everything boils down to chemistry and preferences, there’s an important distinction to be drawn between the two. I can feel genuinely sorry that a reader didn’t enjoy my book, without accepting their personal judgement of that book as The Hand Of God. Equally, I can feel pleased that a reader loved my book, without deciding I am now invincible and can do no wrong.

Now, some people advocate the idea of ignoring praise, censure and everything in between. They’re basically saying that creators should ignore any and all reactions and just write to please themselves first and foremost. Now, as much as I’m a big believer in ‘Whatever works, works’, I definitely have thoughts on this. Three of them, in fact.

Thought Number One: If you’re an author who wants to sell lots of books, then you really do have to care what the readers think of your work, even if that’s only broadly speaking. I understand, and somewhat adopt, the approach of writing to please yourself first and foremost, but nine times out of 10, this whole idea of not caring at all what the readers think strikes me as dishonest flannel, perpetrated by authors who are trying to armour-plate themselves against the slings and arrows of criticism. See also: authors who insist they don’t read their reviews. Pah! Yeah, right.

Thought Number Two: I don’t think this method is realistic for most people. Me included. I might seem to be pushing some kind of Zen approach to criticism, but we’re all only human.

Thought Number Three: Even if this method can be put into practice, it will deny you the real pleasure of a complete stranger popping up on Twitter to tell you that they loved your work. Sure, it’s also protecting you from someone popping up to tell you it was unutterable crap, but I don’t believe we can, or should, protect ourselves from feeling things when people vocally react to our work.

Okay, time for a caveat here: some people are more susceptible to taking judgement very badly and/or very personally, often because of hairline cracks installed in their foundations by their upbringing or other life stuff. I'm very aware that I was raised by two supportive parents, something which arguably established the base-level of my self-esteem, especially when compared to someone who was raised to feel inadequate. If that’s true for you, I’d still love to hope that what I’m suggesting over the course of this babble might help you grow more comfortable with people’s judgement, if not entirely so.

Here’s an idea, then. How about we do allow ourselves to feel things when people judge our work, but we dial down the signal and react in a more measured way? We are no more able to control the content of these judgements than we’re able to control the weather, but we have way more control over how we react to them both.

Let’s feel pleased when someone’s personal preferences lead them to like or love our work, rather than feeling ecstatic or believing ourselves to be brilliant and untouchable.

Let’s feel sorry when someone’s personal preferences lead them to dislike or hate our work, rather than deciding we’re now hideous imposters who should jump into a ditch and roll around, eating mud and mewling.

What I’m advocating, I now realise, is a form of mindfulness. Acknowledging each reaction to our work, feeling something in response, then allowing each reaction to drift off on the day’s ever-flowing stream of thoughts, without ever having a chance to supercharge or destroy our ego. The more we accept that reactions are based on chemistry and preferences and are mostly about the person reacting, rather than some kind of cosmic, definitive High Court judgement of us, the easier this breed of mindfulness will become.

Let’s stress-test all this stuff I’ve said with a real-life example, shall we? You’ll like this bit, even if I don’t.

My new novel Ghoster is out next week on October 24 (October 22 in the States) and I really hope the majority of people love it. That’s why I wrote this book: for people to read and hopefully love and tell other people about it. I feel nervous about the response, especially as a fair few people really seemed to like The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, but I also don’t feel as if my whole career or life are hanging by a thread. This, admittedly, is partly because I put a hell of a lot of work into Ghoster and I like it a lot, so I suppose there’s a foundation of confidence there, boosted greatly by the responses so far from awesome authors like Sarah Pinborough, John Higgs, Sarah Lotz and Christopher Brookmyre, and institutions like Publisher’s Weekly and the American Library Association.

Sticking with Ghoster, then, here’s a question that might have been playing on your lips, perhaps accompanied by a frown. I said earlier that I’m happy if the majority of people like my work, but what if most people were to hate it? What if most people hate Ghoster – or even worse, feel indifferent to it? How mindful would Impervious Arnopp feel then, eh?

Well, that would suck. No two ways about it.

See, I might have this whole approach of not assigning too much meaning to any one reaction, combined with the knowledge that it’s all based on chemistry and preferences, but that’s only a system. I mean, I’m not some fucking monk, meditating on a hill-top.

I want one million people to love Ghoster and so I’ll be really disappointed if most people don’t. One of the harsher truths of being a creative person is that sometimes we badly misjudge the likelihood of other people loving our creations. Sometimes we have to own and acknowledge that misjudgement, even if it’s only privately. This doesn’t mean that our creation is now objectively rubbish, but crucially, it has failed to meet our objective, which in the case of Ghoster is to delight an endless stream of readers.

Another major caveat is needed here, because this is fair complex stuff: it is absolutely possible for a novel to stumble on an objective, technical level. The plot might not hang together, for instance, or the character development might have got all messed up. 

Sometimes, a reaction isn’t solely about other people’s preferences. It can be about your shortcomings or even your downright failure. Sometimes our castle simply has a really messed-up moat and we have to own and acknowledge such mistakes, while constantly striving to improve in every single way.

So, if Ghoster were to fail to meet my objective, I would acknowledge my disappointment to myself as fleetingly as humanly possible, while drinking as few gallons of Jack Daniel’s as humanly possible. Then I’d get on with the next thing if I haven’t already: the big comeback novel that’s going to match with lots more people’s preferences, while still feeling like something that also matches my own. Also, something I feel is better.

As Harry Hill has often said, you’ve gotta have a system. When you take a big knock from which no amount of measured mindfulness can insulate you, it’s much better to have a system in place to return to, than to flail around in the chaos of self-doubt. And when you decide that other people’s judgements, good or bad, will no longer rock your boat too far off course in any given direction, and will never ever define you, I reckon you’ll find yourself a far more comfortable and hardy captain.

What do you think? Does any of this makes sense, or are these words simply unrealistic blatherings from the abyss? Tell me in comments below, or on the socialz.

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Ghoster at Amazon UK
Ghoster at Amazon US
My Ghoster page on this site
<![CDATA[Doctor Who: Season 26 Blu-ray details]]>Tue, 03 Sep 2019 09:36:35 GMT/blog/doctor-who-season-26-blu-ray-details
Sylvester McCoy fans rejoice, at today's news that Season 26 - the final series of classic Doctor Who - will be the next to join the BBC's deluxe Blu-ray series Doctor Who: The Collection, just in time for Christmas on December 23.

Season 26 features the stories Battlefield, Ghost Light, The Curse Of Fenric and Survival.

This seven-disc box set will feature hours of special features previously released on DVD, plus of course lots of new content, as we've come to expect from Doctor Who: The Collection. Here's the list...

Rare Restored Extended Cuts
The Curse of Fenric VHS Extended Version
The Curse of Fenric DVD Special Edition
Battlefield VHS Extended Version
Battlefield DVD Special Edition, plus
5.1 surround sound & isolated scores
On all 14 broadcast episodes, plus 5.1 sound on all extended versions of The Curse Of Fenric and Battlefield. 
Behind the Sofa
New episodes with Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, plus
companions Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton, Anneke Wills and
Jodie-Whittaker-era writers Pete McTighe & Joy Wilkinson.
Showman - the Life of John Nathan-Turner
A feature-length look at the life and career of Doctor Who’s
longest-serving producer, who fought to keep the programme on-air
during the 1980s. Contributors include Peter Davison and Colin Baker.
Making ‘The Curse of Fenric’
A brand new documentary featuring Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred,
Tomek Bork, Nicholas Parsons, Cory Pulman, Marek Anton,
Ian Briggs, Andrew Cartmel, Mark Ayres and Ian Collins featuring
unseen behind-the-scenes footage and photographs.
In Conversation
Matthew Sweet chats to companion Sophie Aldred.
The Writers’ Room
Ben Aaronovitch, Marc Platt, Ian Briggs, Rona Munro
and Andrew Cartmel discuss their work on Season 26.
Becoming The Destroyer
Actor Marek Anton and prosthetics designer Stephen Mansfield
recall the creation of one of Doctor Who’s best ever monsters.
Blu-Ray trailer
Sophie Aldred back in character as Ace.
Brand new Ghost Light extended workprint
Unseen studio footage
Rare archive treats
Convention footage
HD photo galleries
Scripts, costume designs, rare BBC production files
and other gems from our PDF archive
And lots more!
Pre-order this Doctor Who Season 26 box-set at Amazon UK

Here's the excellent YouTube trailer below...

In other Doctor Who Blu-ray news, the release date of the Season 23 box-set (Trial Of A Time Lord) has gone back a couple of weeks to October 7.

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<![CDATA[How & Why I Created Sherilyn Chastain]]>Sun, 23 Jun 2019 20:51:44 GMT/blog/how-why-i-created-sherilyn-chastain
Despite being a supporting character in my novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, Sherilyn Chastain seems to have a struck a chord with readers. She certainly did with me, and I enjoyed writing her very much.This will be a spoiler-free piece, by the way, in case you’ve – gasp – yet to read the novel.

An Australian-French combat magician with a foul mouth and a possible sex addiction, Sherilyn was created to serve the story in three ways:

1) I needed someone to question Jack’s dogged cynicism over the supernatural. Obviously, Jack’s flatmate Bex does this to a certain extent too, but Sherilyn’s knowledge of the arcane world allows her to go much deeper and really get under Jack’s skin. Which is why they argue like cats and dogs.

2) I needed someone to explain a fair bit of mysterious, supernatural stuff – especially later in the novel. Come the final third of the story, Sherilyn essentially becomes the Doctor in Doctor Who. Jack and Bex become her companions, asking what the hell is going on. Doctor-esque characters are ever so handy in stories in which bizarre conceptual stuff is going on.

3) I wanted a fun, colourful character who could be funny and dark at the same time.

So that’s why Sherilyn was created. What about the how?

What with knowing nothing about combat magic, I turned to my excellent friend Cat Vincent, a retired combat magician. Yes, yes, combat magicians are actually a thing in the real world. So I got Cat on Skype and interviewed him for around an hour. Because I knew the basic shape of the plot at that stage, I was able to ask him specific things that I needed to know. At times, I also asked him whether certain things would make sense within the magical world. Magical logic, if you will… or even if you won’t.

When writing Sherilyn, I made good use of Cat’s words. In fact, I quite often literally had his words coming out of her mouth. As a result, there is the occasional moment where I actually don’t understand what she’s talking about, but it sounds awesome and that’s all that matters at the time.

While Sherilyn is Aussie-French, she speaks with an overwhelmingly Aussie accent, and so I turned to another excellent friend, Dijana Capan, to make sure she would sound suitably Down Underly. This was mainly a matter of asking Dijana to supply the odd Aussie-specific phrase (“Get a dog up ya!”, for instance) or checking that I hadn’t made any phrases up myself.

So that’s Sherilyn Chastain. You know... beyond all that research, the more I look back at this powerful person, the more she does have the sense of a female Doctor about her. The way she’ll sweep into any given room and take control, and have a seemingly endless supply of magical ghost-hunting gadgetry, such an aerosol spray can of St John’s Root. So, yeah, Doctor Who probably smuggled itself into my work there. Certainly wouldn’t have been the first time and it won’t be the last…

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The Last Days Of Jack SparksAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada

And here's the Jack Sparks page on my website.
<![CDATA[Classic Doctor Who blu-ray news]]>Tue, 18 Jun 2019 10:26:32 GMT/blog/classic-doctor-who-blu-ray-news
Turns out that the next release in the BBC's Doctor Who: The Collection deluxe Blu-ray range will be Season 23, aka The Trial Of A Time Lord, on September 23.

The final series of Colin Baker's reign as the Sixth Doctor, Season 23 presented itself as one epic 14-part story, albeit divided into four individual stories within the overarching courtroom tale.

This afternoon, I'll upload a special mid-week YouTube video, in which I look back at the whole season, the new Blu-ray set's packaging and of course the special features. Subscribe here and hit the notification bell, so as to be sure not to miss it! 

Here's the list of special features for this set:
  • Extended edits - of all fourteen episodes
  • Terror of the Vervoids - four-part standalone edition with updated Fx
  • Immersive 5.1 surround sound & isolated scores - on all 14 broadcast episodes
  • Behind the Sofa - new episodes with Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Bonnie Langford, Mark Strickson, Frazer Hines and Matthew Waterhouse
  • The Writers’ Room - Eric Saward, Philip Martin, Christopher H Bidmead & Waly K Daly discuss the ‘Lost’ Season 23
  • The Doctor Who Cookbook Revisited - brave cast members tackle their original recipes from the 1980s official cookbook
  • The Doctor’s Table - join Colin Baker and friends for dinner
  • In Conversation - Matthew Sweet chats to companion Bonnie Langford
  • Unseen studio footage
  • Rare archive treats
  • Convention footage
  • Blu-ray trailer
  • HD photo galleries
  • Scripts, costume designs & more in the PDF Archive

Don't miss my YouTube video, in which I discuss all of the above in much more detail.

Check out the box set at Amazon UK

<![CDATA[Some things you should know about the proofreading stage of a novel]]>Sun, 16 Jun 2019 18:53:23 GMT/blog/some-things-you-should-know-about-the-proof-reading-stage-of-a-novel
To ensure that we all start on the same page with this, let me explain the difference between the proofreading process and, say, the copy-editing process.

The copy-editor reads your novel and makes a whole bunch of suggestions. Sometimes these are ways in which a sentence might flow more smoothly, be clearer in meaning or just be downright better. Other times, the copy-editor might identify a logic problem to ask you about. A potential plot-hole, in other words.

Just like the rest of the edit process, copy editing is awesome. Copy editors are horribly unsung, given that they can make you look like a better writer than you actually are. Crucially, they’re a fresh pair of eyes, bringing a fresh take to a book which you and your editor have both read several times by then.

I still remember a sentence in my first Orbit Books novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, which my copy-editor improved so much by suggesting the use of the word “solicit”. I think it was Jack saying he would solicit the combat magician Sherilyn Chastain’s views on something. Whatever it was, that suggestion made the sentence flow like a dream. And I TOOK ALL THE CREDIT, MWAH-HAH-HAHHHH

When you get your manuscript back, full of the copy-editors’ suggestions, you go through the whole thing and say yes or no to each of them. Yes, you do have that power of veto, but it’s one to wield wisely and carefully. Why? Because it cannot be overstated how much the copy-editor offers a fresh perspective on your project. For instance, if something wasn’t clear to them about your book, on a macro or micro level, then chances are it really could do with clarification.

During the copy edit, you’re not just responding to the copy-editor’s suggestions and questions – you’re reading through the whole thing again. At this stage, you’re still able to get hands-on with the Word file and make pretty much all the changes you want. And this, it’s important to note, is your last chance to carry out any serious surgery the book needs to undergo.

So that’s the copy edit. What’s the proofread, then? This is the final stage of production – for you, the author, at least. Different production editors no doubt go about this differently, but in the cases of my new novel Ghoster and 2016's The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, I was sent the type-set novel through the post, across about 450 A4 pages. It’s a glorious moment, when you get to see your novel laid out on the pages, just as it will look in the finished version. Or at least, close to how it will look, because this is your final chance to make changes.

You read through the whole thing (again) and mark up any issues you find. The difference this time, is that you’re looking for micro rather than macro. Typos, small plot-holes, things like that. You no longer have the Word file to tamper with. Instead, you’ll be communicating a list of changes you’d like to your production editor – and this list needs to be as brief as humanly possible. In fact, if the proposed changes are “excessive”, then they may incur financial charges! And these may well be passed on from the publisher to you.

Yeah. This doesn’t get talked about much, does it, eh? But the bottom line is: the proofreading stage should never be thought of as this huge, all-encompassing safety net, and your production editor should not be thought of as someone who’s going to be willing or able to make hundreds of corrections to the manuscript on your behalf. Even if they’re as super-cool as Orbit’s managing editor Joanna Kramer, who has overseen the production of Ghoster and The Last Days Of Jack Sparks.

The thing is, we’re authors, which means we’re rarely 100 per cent happy with our work. Certainly not our writing, anyway. So with Ghoster, for instance, I saw various sentences during the proofing stage that I wanted to try and ‘perfect’. In the end, though, I had to accept that most of these sentences were actually fine. I chose instead to prioritise anything that was an actual mistake, as opposed to my endless quest for a perfect sentence. Besides, there’s always the danger that last-minute changes will cause you to, for instance, use a word which has already been overused elsewhere in the text. In fact, some last-minute changes run the risk of tipping over the whole apple cart. One careless eleventh-hour 'correction' could actually screw the plot, so tread lightly.

Once you reach a certain point with a novel, you just have to accept that it’s done.

And as of Thursday morning, when I hit Send on an email to Joanna with the list of proof amendments attached, Ghoster is done.

Come October 24, if you are of a mind to do so, you’ll get to read the novel and spot any typos we missed. Just, please, for the love of God, don’t tell me about any of them.

Here’s Ghoster at Amazon. Pre-orderliness is next to godliness. 

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon Canada

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<![CDATA[Don't wait to be given a deadline]]>Sat, 08 Jun 2019 15:40:43 GMT/blog/dont-wait-to-be-given-a-deadline
I recently committed to two new stressful things.

Namely, sending my newsletter The Necronoppicon out fortnightly, and uploading a new video to my YouTube channel Jason Arnopp’s Terrifying House Of Obsession every single Sunday. This has imposed a rigid new structure to my working weeks. Even though this structure has applied more pressure to me, I wouldn't have it any other way, because hard deadlines are our friends. Stick with me and I’ll tell you how you can use deadlines to get more creativity done, no matter what level you’re currently at.

Here’s the thing: without a deadline for a project, how are you supposed to prioritise? How can you possibly decide what to do next if you don’t know when everything needs to be done? I’ve been a freelance writer for three decades now, in the fields of fiction and journalism (although many would call those two indistinguishable) and the first thing I ask when I’m commissioned to do something is when it needs to be done by.

Okay, sure… if a commissioning editor or a producer says, “Are you free next Friday?” I will ask what the job is first. Then I might ask about the money. But the first thing I’ll ask that’s actually relevant to actually getting the job done is the deadline.

I find it easy to step into line with a weekly pulse, because rock journalism instilled that rhythm in me. Exactly two decades ago, I was the news editor on Kerrang!, the world’s finest – and admittedly only – weekly rock magazine.

For a decade before that, I had been a freelancer for the magazine, headbanging to its weekly beat and delivering articles by mid-week because the magazine was put to bed every Friday, to come out the following Tuesday.

Being news editor on Kerrang! was a blast, but if I’d done it for much longer than 18 months I would have burned myself out. It was an amazing process, coming into the London office every Monday and seeing which blank pages I had to play with, then proceeding to fill them with news over the next few days, delivering one set of pages at a time. I would be lying to you if I said that the looming Friday deadline wasn’t terrifying, but that got-to-get-it-done-no-matter-what terror also directly translated into high-adrenaline excitement.

One Thursday night, I slept in the office, to make sure that the band Korn’s management had emailed over suitably high-resolution images of the band’s new US live show, because my main news story relied on that content. (Back then, in ye olde days, some of us didn’t have the proper internet at home!) Soon as the pictures showed up at 3am, I figured it was barely worth going home to Camden Town and coming back, so I dozed on a sofa just outside the office, able to sleep all the more soundly for the knowledge that I would reach my deadline that week.

I always met the deadline, because I had to. The unthinkable alternative would have been Kerrang! magazine hitting newsagents’ shelves with blank spaces where the news should be. And hard deadlines are our friends, because they create a sense of do-or-die urgency. When you’re zooming towards a hard deadline, it may as well be a brick wall. Failure is not an option.

Here is something I’d really like you to consider if you haven’t already: why should we wait for other people to give us a deadline? We are equally able to set deadlines for ourselves and our own pro-active, self-starting work.

Why do we have a tendency to treat deadlines from other people as somehow more serious than the ones we apply to ourselves?

So no matter what you’re doing, no matter what you’re creating, don’t wait for permission. Do not allow projects to wander on and on forever. Give yourself a deadline and make it concrete-hard. Regardless of whether you’re embarking on your first ever piece of fiction, or you’ve formed anything from a band to a start-up company, act as if your failure to finish your project by a week on Tuesday will result in absolute disaster. The equivalent of Kerrang! hitting the shelves blank.

When you make hard deadlines your friend, you make failure unthinkable, which can surely only lead to success.

Do you agree? Are deadlines our friends or the work of Satan? Tell me in comments below.

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<![CDATA[Why I miss movie censorship]]>Sat, 01 Jun 2019 10:08:39 GMT/blog/why-i-miss-movie-censorship
The first thing to note here is that movie censorship still very much happens. Certainly in the UK, the British Board of Film Classification regularly bans films altogether, so it’s not as if we’re suddenly living in Amsterdam, where movies would probably have to break all kinds of real-life laws just to raise an eyebrow. 

However, there is so much less censorship than there used to be in the crazy 1980s, when horror films would fall foul of the censor’s scissors simply for daring to present an exploding head. Hell, in the early ‘80s, some action films would have bloody bullet wounds snipped too.

The second thing to note here is that I loathe censorship and stand opposed to it.

So what exactly do I miss about movie censorship?

The hunt.

That’s exactly what I miss. The thrill of the chase.

By its very nature, movie censorship created more than one version of a movie. As a result, one of these versions suddenly became far more desirable than the other. Horror films that would not otherwise have attracted all that much attention suddenly achieved legendary status when they were banned or trimmed. Many of the flicks that ended up on the UK’s banned video nasties list of the early 1980s were absolutely appalling… and yet after they were pulled from the shelves by the police, they instantly became holy grails for collectors and horror fans alike.

Thirty-five years later, several of these nasties command over £100 in value – even as much as £1,600.

Even though we should obviously have been allowed to watch the unexpurgated version of a movie in the first place, in the exact manner that the writer and director intended, there was an odd excitement when you watched a film and could tell it had been hacked by some zealot. As a general rule, the gory scenes appeared to have been censored by a particularly clumsy chimpanzee. Onscreen, an axe would swing towards the latest victim’s neck and the action would cut abruptly to a shocked onlooker, or blood spraying the walls, or even straight to the next scene.

Of course, sometimes when you finally got your hands on the original version of the film, you’d discover that there was nothing extra to see at all. Either the director had been more restrained than you’d given them credit for, or the editor of the actual film had behaved like a particularly clumsy chimpanzee. But therein lay the thrills – what exactly had hit the cutting room floor? Collectors would flock to film fairs, hungry for under-the-counter copies of films which could not legally be seen in the UK. Dutch tapes, perhaps, whose content would obviously be fully intact, because the Dutch are sensible folk (apart from allowing dope to be sold by canals with no safety rails, obviously.)

Let me give you a solid example of the hunt in action. I first saw the Friday The 13th sequel Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday on the UK rental release, seen here on the left. I loved the film, which seemed pretty darn violent. Then I went on a press trip to America and picked up the ‘Unrated’ US VHS tape, seen here on the right. When I came home and watched the film, my mind was blown. The film was now even bloodier! One notorious scene in particular, involving someone being graphically sliced in half inside a tent, was absolutely ridiculous. In a good way. 

On top of the rush I felt from having sourced this forbidden footage, was the joy of sticking it to The Man. Those dusty old geese at the BBFC didn’t want me to see this stuff, but I DAMN WELL HAD. How’d you like those apples, eh? 

And then, it all went wrong, because with the new millennium came progress. All that pesky liberation of art, plus a revised view on exactly how much mollycoddling the average adult viewer needs. As a result, the hunt was ruined! 

With increasing regularity, even the gutsiest of horror films simply ended up landing on DVD or Blu-ray in an uncut form. Jesus Christ, they even had to try hard to achieve an ‘18’ certificate as opposed to a measly '15'! Of course, there were noble exceptions that still managed to roll up on these shores in a censored state (The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence or A Serbian Film, for instance), but mostly the entire ecosystem that had developed around searching for the uncut versions of films was dying a death.

It used to be a real mission to hunt down an uncut copy of The Toxic Avenger or Zombie Holocaust. And now they're both just on Blu-ray in HMV.

Of course, needless to say, it’s great that we have far less censorship now than we did in the 1980s. 

And yet I really miss the buzz of seeing things I wasn’t supposed to see. 

I miss the legwork of having to physically go places to find banned movies on VHS.

I miss the giddy high when you finally get that forbidden fruit in your hand, then take a big juicy bite.

I miss the hunt for movies that posh 65-year-old men decided might transform me into a raving driller-killer.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? But then, it’s only natural that a ridiculous thing like movie censorship should invite a ridiculous response.

Tell me I'm not alone in this. Does part of you miss movie censorship too? 

My mailing list subscribers received this article direct to their inbox two Sundays ago, as part of my newsletter The Necronoppicon. Join them and get a free book.
<![CDATA[Reconnecting with a passion]]>Thu, 16 May 2019 09:24:52 GMT/blog/reconnecting-with-a-passion
You know, sometimes I’m very slow indeed. I've only just realised one of the most important purposes of my YouTube channel.

Through making (hopefully) fun, funny and entertaining videos on my channel every week, I get to reconnect with the things I love. Sometimes our data-addled brains need a reminder of these important things, because we’ve somehow managed to lose sight of them over time.

There will always be a special place in my heart for Doctor Who Target books. These beautiful things played a big part in getting me into Doctor Who AND writing. That’s why it’s been so good to reconnect with them across a couple of YouTube videos. Not to mention laying them all out on my living room floor. If you collect stuff, I highly recommend laying it all out across your living room floor and just taking it all in for a moment. You can then apply the Marie Kondo method if you like (as you can see from the picture above, for instance, I have a few doubles), but it's far from obligatory.

For these latest YouTube videos, I’ve chosen my Top 10 favourite Doctor Who Target book covers, IN ORDER, which was no easy task at all. In fact, I switched the Number One and Two choices at the last minute and re-edited the video.

My Top 10 Target book covers are spread across two videos, each of which is 15 minutes along. If you’d like to start the countdown at either Number 10 or Number Five, then the links are below. Enjoy - and be sure to let me know your own favourites over there in comments.

What’s an example of something that you love but have reconnected with over time? What prompted you to reconnect - and how did you feel when you did? Let's go against the grain and actually get a few comments posted onto a blog in 2019... :D

Part One of My Top 10 Favourite Doctor Who Target book covers (Numbers 10 down to 6)

Part Two of My Top 10 Favourite Doctor Who Target book covers (Number 5 down to 1)

Want the overview? Here's my main channel page, where you can see playlists of my videos on things like horror, VHS and retro video games.
<![CDATA[New Year, New Novel, New YouTube]]>Sun, 03 Mar 2019 12:07:21 GMT/blog/new-year-new-novel-new-youtube-channel
Hello, you incredible creature! A quick post to fill you in on all the latest from me.

I have a new novel due in October. Woohoo! It's called Ghoster, and will be available from October 24, barring any delays, which obviously can happen in publishing. Would certainly be nice to get it out for Halloween. You can check out the current incarnation of the blurb at Amazon UK and indeed Amazon US. Needless to say, if you were to pre-order Ghoster, then this would set you up among the gods in my eyes! If you do this, let me know on Twitter and I will shower you with gratitude.

Incidentally, my mailing list subscribers were the first to receive the news about Ghoster a couple of weeks back, direct to their inbox. So if you're not one of them and don't want to miss out in future, then sign up here and get a free book while you're at it, plus 25% off books in my Payhip store! WHAT A SAVINGS.

I also have a new YouTube channel. Well, to be precise, I started a YouTube channel in 2007, then did very little with the account, apart from the odd video of swans and San Sebastian's Old Town. But now I'm really trying to make use of that opportunity, so I'm posting videos about writing, Jack Sparks, old-school VHS, retro video games and whatever else feels like fun. I'm genuinely enjoying making these videos, which is a good sign for the longevity of the channel. 

Join me over there and hit Subscribe, so that you'll never miss a new upload!

Okay, so now you're basically up to speed. Thanks, love you, bye!
<![CDATA[A Quiversome Quartet Of Halloween Updates]]>Sat, 21 Oct 2017 16:47:05 GMT/blog/a-trio-of-terrific-updates
Hello! Here's all my latest news:

Over the last five years, I've been compiling an ebook collection of 30 of my favourite interview articles I wrote, back when I was a rock journalist. These are mainly from Kerrang!, between 1992 and 2002. I'm really happy with the finished product, titled From The Front Lines Of Rock.

Among the bands included are Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Garbage, Faith No More, Eminem, Manic Street Preachers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pantera, Nine Inch Nails and Green Day. Lots of big names.

I've added an afterword to each article, plus over 200 footnotes throughout the book. God, remind me not to compile a book involving footnotes again any time soon. I'm massively grateful to Phil Lunt, who stepped in to handle the final formatting.

Check it out at Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada and any other Kindle store worldwide. Using the Look Inside feature, you can actually read the introduction, plus the first two interviews! LUXURY.
Here's a wonderful thing: my novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks is among the novels featured in the latest OFF Book club night, which takes place on Friday October 27 at Waterstones Piccadilly in London. 

One of the scenes from the book will be performed by an incredible acting troupe! Can't wait. And as if that wasn't thrilling enough, they're going to do the same with Sarah Lotz's literally chilling novel The White Road, and Giorgio de Maria's The Twenty Days Of Turin!

Sarah and I will be there on the night, and tickets are still available.  Grab 'em here! 
Happy to say I'm once again a guest at this month's MCM London mega-event!

​I'll be on panels, and doing signings, alongside fellow authors like Shaun Hutson, Joe Pasquale, RJ Barker, Edward Cox, Jamie Sawyer, Catriona Ward, Ben Aaronovitch and Una McCormack! See the full Author's Corner line-up here, then check out the rest of the site. Needless to say, as always at MCM, there's a hell of a lot going on.

Can't make MCM London? Check out Lounge Books' phantasmagorical Horror Lounge online event over Halloween. Actually, check it out even if you can make MCM London, you beautifully compulsive soul. Various authors will be writing and chatting and all kinds of stuff. See the Horror Lounge page here

News ends! You may now go about your day.

Download my book American Hoarder for FREE, by clicking the image below