Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox - #pmjtour

Went to see this ensemble play in Edinburgh last night - a brilliant show, highly recommended. They're on tour round the UK and Europe for the rest of this month. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My PLR top ten titles for July 2013 - June 2014

Every year the Public Lending Right sends registered authors a statement estimating how many times their books were borrowed from UK libraries. To compensate for lost sales, the PLR pays about six pence per loan. There's a maximum payment threshold [£6600] to prevent bestselling authors from draining the PLR's precious coffers of cash.

About 22,000 authors will get payments for the most recent PLR period [July 2013-June 2014], with about 190 on the maximum amount. The fate of the PLR is in flux, as cash-strapped councils close libraries and eBooks alter reading habits. In the meantime, authors welcome this new year bonus.

It is free to register your books for PLR - just go here. Even if you only wrote [or drew, in the case of comics artist] part of a collection, you can still register your bit. I represent a tiny 3% of the Heavy Metal Dredd graphic novel, but it makes me a few pennies.

I’m a minnow for PLR payments, never getting more than £500 in any given year. With my focus on screenwriting since 2007, and new novels published in nearly a decade, the size of my payment keeps tumbling as my dog-eared tomes disappear from libraries.

No doubt thanks to the recent movie starring Karl Urban, the most borrowed book featuring my work was a Judge Dredd graphic novel, Heavy Metal Dredd. An old omnibus of Dredd novels featuring one of mine also makes my top ten this year, with one of my Dredd novels bubbling under.

My last published novel - A Massacre in Marienburg, a Warhammer tome for Games Workshop's Black Library - dropped from second to fifth. Nearly all my novels on this list are out of physical print, but many are available as eBooks. Happily, both graphic novels listed here are still in print.

My Fiends of the Eastern Front novels, plus the comic serial compilation Stalingrad, still get read even though they date back nearly ten years in some cases. Horror also features in my Nightmare on Elm Street novel Suffer the Children.

My old Doctor Who novel Amorality Tale endures, despite being 13 years old. Happily, it is being reprinted next month and that new edition might well propel up my PLR rankings. Anyway, here are my top ten tomes for July 2013 - June 2014 (with previous year's placing in brackets):-

1. (1) Heavy Metal Dredd (graphic novel, published Apr 09)
2. (4) Fiends of the Eastern Front: Twilight of the dead (Jul 06)
3. (3) Fiends of the Eastern Front: Stalingrad (graphic novel, Oct 10)
4. (12) The Complete Inspector Morse (Oct 09)
5. (2) A Massacre in Marienburg (Dec 08)
6. (5) I am the Law: Judge Dredd omnibus (Oct 06)
7. (9) Doctor Who: Amorality Tale (Apr 02)
8. (6) Fiends of the Eastern Front: The Blood Red Army (Apr 06)
9. (10) A Nightmare on Elm Street: Suffer the Children (May 05)
10. (-) Fiends of the Eastern Front: Operation Vampyr (Oct 05)

Bubbling under - Doctor Who: The Domino Effect; Thrill-Power Overload; and Judge Dredd: Kingdom of the Blind.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Serial: SNL spoofs podcast phenomenon

Having been thoroughly addicted to the Serial podcast, this tickled me.

My 3 writing goals for the first three months of 2015

Setting goals for yourself as a freelance writer is essential if you want to progress. I used to diligently set goals every year and check how well they were going. Lately? Not so much. As a result things drifted. I was busy, but wasn't doing enough writing. Realising this, I sensibly decided there was little point networking myself without fresh material.

Having rediscovered my writing mojo, I am also recommitting myself to goal setting for 2015. I'm not going to plot goals for the whole year, I prefer to have some flexibility so I can respond to opportunities as they arise. But I am determined to stake out my writing territory for the next three months and stick to it, come hell or high water.

Goal #1: develop pitch documents for two new returning TV series ideas aimed at pre-teen audiences. Happily, I already have two ideas rolling round in my head for both of these, but I need to commit them to paper/pixels. I'm excited about each of them and achieving this goal is entirely in my power to make happen. Plus, they support goal #2.

Goal #2: pursue meetings about TEALEAF, my pre-teen TV pilot script which was a winner in the BBC writersroom Script Room 7. That isn't a truly smart goal as it's hard to measure, but I need to make the most of my opportunity [something I've failed to do in the past]. I've two meetings set for early 2015, with another on the horizon.

Goal #3: finish the first draft of my rom-com spec feature screenplay. I have been writing this in fits and bursts during 2014, so I need a disciplined effort to complete it. Only then can I usefully assess the value of this project and decide what to do next [rewrite or set aside]. Again, this is all down to me so I have no excuses for failing!

There you have it: two goals I can definitely make happen, and another that needs to be pursued. I'm giving myself to the end of March 2015 to achieve all three. Onwards!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014: rediscovering my writing mojo

I like to write an end of year report for myself, to assess how I've done over the past twelve months [the freelancer's personal review, if you like]. Looking back at the equivalent post I wrote at the end of 2013 is remarkably downbeat. I was not enjoying writing, had little to no motivation, and was uncertain of the way forward. My goal for 2014 was simple: rediscover my writing mojo.

Well, this year is all over bar the tinsel, so how did I get on?

Comics: I wrote my 45th script for Fantomen - and it's likely to be my last for a while [perhaps permanently], due to editorial changes. I always have fun crafting adventures for Ghost Who Walks and it'd be great to reach 50 issues But that's out of my hands, so I have to call that an aim rather than a goal. [I also spent a couple of days on a one-off book-to-comic adaptation for a transmedia project, an intriguing challenge.]

Computer Games: I've had an off/on relationship with this narrative medium over the years [mostly off]. But I finally got to work with Simon Meek at The Secret Experiment on two projects, after years of chatting and wanting to collaborate. Both projects were challenging and exciting - and that's all I can say about them. I'd like to do more games work, but again that's mostly out of my hands so it's an aim for 2015 rather than a goal.

Books: I wrote a new introduction for Amorality Tale, an old Doctor Who novel of mine that's being reprinted by BBC Books early in 2015. It was fun revisiting the story, and reminded how much I used to enjoy writing prose fiction. I gave up novels for screenwriting in 2008, after hacking out a few too many potboilers to pay the bills. I can feel the itch for prose fiction slowly returning, but right now I'd say it's unlikely to be one of my goals for 2015.

Radio: I adapted one of my old calling card TV scripts for the BBC Writer's Prize. [I won through more than 1200 entries to be one of the final 10 drama scripts in the 2013 contest.] My entry didn't progress this time, probably because I wasn't anywhere bold enough and failed to make the project fully inhabit the strengths of radio drama as a storytelling medium. But it kept me writing, so still served a purpose.

Screenwriting: After a fallow period in 2013, I did indeed rediscover my screenwriting mojo. I've been writing a feature film off and on this year, and enjoying the process enormously. It's a romantic comedy, which is so far beyond my normal genre range as to beggar belief [people who know my work laugh when I tell them I'm writing a rom-com]. It's done on spec with no deadline, so finishing this is a definite goal for 2015.

My other screenwriting project of the year was TEALEAF, the pilot script for a returning pre-teen drama series. I've had the idea for it since 2009 but the BBC writersroom had a call for children's TV scripts this summer [called Script Room 7 - SR7 for short] and that provided a deadline to focus my energies and efforts. I got a polished first draft done in time for submission, sent it in and tried to forget all about TEALEAF - but I couldn't.

Those characters and their world really chimed with me, so I kept working on the script. I sought out feedback from writers, a writer/director and a showrunner/script editor I know. They all had great, challenging notes that forced to me dig deeper [thanks Debbie, Chris, Adrian & Rachel]. The result is a fourth draft script and pitch document that's out being read by various independent production companies. It's an exciting time.

Realistically, the chances of TEALEAF going into production are extremely slim, but I'm still proud of the work. Even if TEALEAF never finds a wider audience, the script still serves as a calling card for writing opportunities on CBBC audience shows. TEALEAF was inspired by series like Debbie Moon's Wolfblood, thematically rich dramas full of heart and smarts. Getting to write for such series is a definite aim for 2015.

You'd never know I used to be a journalist because I have absolutely buried the lead here. My biggest success in 2014 came thanks to TEALEAF. My entry to SR7 got through to the final 3% from 600+ entries. Better still, it secured a meeting with the CBBC development team in 2015. Obviously that meeting comes with no guarantees but I'm already preparing for it. Working up two new series ideas for CBBC is a key 2015 goal.

This year was about rediscovering my mojo, and it was a success. I'm enjoying writing much more than last year, eager to crack on with current and fresh projects. My biggest challenge is finding time to do those projects justice, but I'm not letting a busy schedule be an easy excuse anymore. I may not have had anything new on TV in 2014, but it still feels like a turning point. Coming soon: my three main writing goals for 2015. Onwards!