Y: The Last Man

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Y: The Last Man is a stunning graphic novel that poses the question: would the world be a better place if it was run by women?

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Written by Brian K. Vaughan and beautifully drawn by Pia Guerra the story is told across 60 issues that concluded way back in 2008. I read it a while ago but I’ve been prompted to post this after coming across a fine article in The Guardian today written by Sian Cain. Check out the article on The Guardian site and more imnportantly read the book for yourself. Don’t just take my word for it, Stephen King said it was the best graphic novel he’s ever read.

The article is prompted by the search for books that inspire rather than soothe and states that hope can feel intangible – but defiance is practical. What do you think?

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Night Swimming

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Book Cover Uncovered

Those wonderful people at Mantle Lane Press have chosen and they have chosen well. The artwork for my forthcoming collection of short stories, Night Swimming, will be provided by Gabriella Marsh. Here’s a text free glimpse of what’s to come.

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Book Cover Designers Needed.

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Calling all artists/photographers/graphic designers.

There’s a great opportunity at Mantle Lane Press for book cover designers.

There are three books that need covers including my own short story collection, Night Swimming. Please check out the link below for details and share this on your own networks.

Book cover design job link.

You can also hear some of the writers of the latest Mantle Lane Press Anthology read from the collection at this year’s Birmingham Literature Festival.

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What Haunts The Heart is a new collection of short stories by brilliant writers from across the Midlands, presenting a host of haunted characters: a waxwork-maker, a doomed puppeteer, an isolated writer… What Haunts The Heart weaves together tales of lost love, regret, bad decisions, madness, secrets, obsession and redemption.

Come and hear a selection of these fantastic stories performed live by writers including William Gallagher, Liza Kershaw and Fiona Joseph.

Tickets are £3 and available here.

Top 10 Books Writers Should Read.

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Here’s a link to an interesting article in The Guardian from DBC Pierre. These 10 books helped him to write and as one of those books was the wonderful, Vernon God Little, it may be worth taking a look.

Has anyone else read any of the 10 books below?

Article link.

Vernon God Little

1. To generate early inspiration and feel part of a club:
Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
Writing can make you feel like a weirdo if you don’t already – but feeling like a weirdo is useless psychology for the job, hence this little book. Mason Currey has carefully compiled the daily habits and personal foibles of 161 great writers, artists, scientists and thinkers, including one who stood on his head to cure creative block. By the end of this book, our carpet-glue habit looks normal.

2. To know how many rules we’re about to break:
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White
The rules of modern writing have been around for a century, and this tiny volume is where they spent all that time. William Strunk Jr, professor of English at Cornell University, first printed the book privately for his students at the end of the first world war. Although it’s been updated, it still smells of chalk and tweed, and still inspires us to do things properly, if only via a sense that we might be shouted at if we don’t.

3. To grasp the difference between one character and another:
Distinction by Pierre Bourdieu
This is strictly speaking a sociology text, but don’t be put off by its density, its diagrams or its tables: it’s a gold mine. Apparently, no judgment of taste is innocent, meaning that everyone is some kind of snob. Here, Bourdieu literally maps the kinds of snob we are, from the food we serve our friends and the knick-knacks on our dressers to the way we value pregnant women and sunsets. Although it’s modelled on the French bourgeoisie, we can still see all our colleagues and neighbours – if not ourselves – inside.

4. To worship at a shrine:
The Chambers Dictionary
Sure, all the words are online, but the 2.37kg of this physical dictionary are a stunning daily reminder of what we’re doing and what our toolbox looks like. Thinking isn’t writing, ideas aren’t writing; only writing is writing and we should make it exist in reality, which means ultimately not on a screen. Words behave differently when they sit in fresh air, and the Chambers rounds them up on silky paper. If you’re serious about this, carry the thing around, browse it at random. It’s a living zoo for writers, and the battery life is second to none.

5. To skip the degree in psychology:
Instant Analysis by David J Lieberman
A character’s struggles in a book will always have their psychology. We don’t need a PhD in order to write them, we just see the symptoms around us and describe them as they appear. But there’s an edge to be gained from looking deeper, if only to prevailing simplifications. Lieberman’s book tackles 100 common complexes (“Why do I do favours for people I don’t even like?”) in a couple of pages each. Obviously we’ll also see ourselves in there, but there’s nothing like naked horror to get the day started.

6. To discover what villains are born knowing:
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
Originally an instruction manual for princes, this realpolitik masterwork teaches who should be trusted and how to destroy them if they can’t be. The scary thing about The Prince, no doubt responsible for its longevity – 500 years and counting – is how snugly it fits any level of human powerplay,, from an average Thursday night for a courting teen to that lonely, bitter man on the wheelie-bin committee.

7. To get over the feeling that modernity is new:
Satyricon by Petronius Arbiter
Few things can change one’s perspective on human history like seeing how familiar and modern this work from Nero’s time is. Better yet, it’s from a decadence just like ours, brimming with risky sex, pretentious food and self-concern.

8. In case Brexit didn’t show why pure democracy should be sparingly used:
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay
No matter the strength of hero or the scale of glory we plan to write about, it never hurts to see how bizarre we can be en masse. Written in beautiful 19th-century prose, this book is a forensic jaunt through history’s strangest crazes.

9. For a smell of literary gasoline igniting:
The Black Book by Lawrence Durrell
It’s one thing to hear of passion and midnight oil, another to see it spilt through a book. These were the pages where 24-year-old Lawrence Durrell found his true voice – it’s worth reading them just to see what that means. One for inspiration.

10. To see what can happen when it all comes together:
Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
Of all the books I could recommend to show writing in full flight, I pick Tender because it also comes with the unlikely extra shine of an underdog. The Great Gatsby is accepted to be Fitzgerald’s greatest work, but this is secretly his best, a connoisseur’s choice. Which, according to Bourdieu, makes us snobs.

Summer round up

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The Tindal Street Fiction Group have been mighty busy:

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Stories accepted: Alan Beard has a story ‘November’ forthcoming in Spelk – in November. Sooner than that, Charles Wilkinson has a story coming out in the next issue of Black Stati…

Source: Summer round up

Star Trek: Beyond

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We’ve just watched this in a chilly, Birmingham cinema, and even an over-eager air conditioner couldn’t put the freeze on this hot picture. The boy and I loved this phaser fest despite there being a couple of plot holes you could drive the Enterprise through at Warp 9. The 2 hours flew by in a blur of hand to hand combat, dizzying space battles, and pithy one-liners. There’s enough here for even the harshest Trek critics.

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Spoiler alert.

Chris Pine continues to shine in the role of Kirk, a man with a natural ability to lead and a distinct inability to follow protocol, and the opening scene shows him completely out of his depth. Kirk tries to negotiate a peace treaty between two aggressive races and offers one a gift from the other. His inability to play the role of ambassador leads to him being attacked by hundreds of imp-like aliens and he has to rely on his crew, and in particular, Scotty, to get him out of the mess he’s created. Afterwards, we find him reflecting upon the Enterprises five year mission into the unknown and coming to the conclusion that he’s bored – well not for long.

The York Town Star Base is pretty damn impressive. It’s a huge sealed globe of twisted gravity, conflicting angles, and skyscrapers, on the edge of Federation space. It’s here that Spock learns of Spock’s death (that’s Spock from the original timeline as played by Leonard Nimoy) that leads him to question his role on board the Enterprise. Both characters are now left with internal conflicts to resolve, and both consider leaving the Enterprise; Spock considers taking up the other Spock’s role upon New Vulcan and Kirk applies to become an assistant admiral? (God only knows how he thinks that’ll work out.) These decisions are put on hold when a distressed alien arrives, in dramatic fashion, to ask for their help. My immersion into the Trek universe was slightly rattled here when they buy her story wholesale without even a cursory check of the facts. Even more worrying was their failure to act (clap her in irons, interrogate her, etc.) when upon arrival at the planet where she claims her crew is trapped, the Enterprise is torn apart in a matter of minutes. At no point does anyone turn upon her and exclaim, ‘Trap!’ This, I must admit was pretty hard to swallow. A rather vertiginous space battle ensues and the Enterprise is well and truly whooped with chunks of it flying off left, right and center.

 

Phew! Only a few minutes in and everything is trashed. The main trunk of the film is then a case of Kirk and co regrouping, liberating and escaping in the rather impressive, and obsolete, U.S.S. Franklin. The Franklin is a retro joy to behold and even in its shabby, unkempt old age you can see nods towards the original TV show. However, here lies another hole in the plot. The rather wonderful, Jaylah, lives in the deserted craft – Jaylah is an escapee from the clutches of Krull, (played by Idris Alba.) She has hidden out here for years and has taught herself English and developed a fondness for really loud 90’s hip-hop. To keep her from getting caught she has set up an optical shield for the craft and rendered it invisible. However, as we later discover, Krull, is the presumed dead captain of the Franklin and surely he’d have known exactly where the ship was!

I digress.

The action tumbles along at a satisfying pace and leads us to a nausea-inducing fight between Kirk and Krull in the center of York Town where gravity is more of an option rather than an absolute. Krull needs to get his ancient, ultimate weapon into the air recycling system for Yorktown station to kill everyone there. There are fisticuffs galore and an inability to say which way is up. Kirk has to eject Krull and the weapon into space without getting himself sucked out with them. It’s a shame that there isn’t a way of doing that. You know some way of moving matter instantaneously. You know, like a TRANSPORTER BEAM! But of course, if they did that there’s be no need for a fight above the skyscrapers.

These gripes aside, Star Trek: Beyond is a very enjoyable romp that pushes all the right buttons and left me feeling entertained rather than cheated. Chris Pike continues to fill Shatner’s boots with a confident swagger and Zachary Quinto is suitably Vulcan – there is the ubiquitous nod back to the past when Spock looks through some of the Nimoy Spock’s possessions and finds a picture of the original Star Trek crew in their Wrath of Khan outfits. Zoe Saldana puts in a fine performance as Uhura, but doesn’t get enough screen time for my liking; she’s merely Spock’s kick ass girlfriend. Anton Yelchin will be hugely missed from any following films; they’ll find it hard to find another actor with such a fun Russian accent and youthful charm. Simon Pegg’s Scotty continues to amuse, but why have Idris Alba in and then obscure his features? A lot of Alba’s emotion was lost underneath the makeup and his voice distorted by his comical dentures. For me, the standout performance comes from Karl Urban. He continues to delight as the permanently dour Dr. McCoy and steals scene after scene. If you love Trek, you’ll love this and if you just want to switch off for two hours and watch the galaxy teeter on the brink of destruction you leave feeling hard done by.

Now treat yourself to the Beastie Boys at their finest. Watch the film and you’ll know why.

 

 

How to write a short story.

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Kurt Vonnegut tells us how short stories should be written. This is very apt after a stimulating conversation with new and old friends at the National Writers’ Conference in Birmingham at the weekend. At least two of his points came up in our conversation: start as close to the end as possible and write to please just one person. I’m not sure about saying, ‘to heck with suspense,’ I think something has to be held back otherwise why does the reader hang around? Answers on a postcard.

 

 

Memory Walk.

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Hi web dwellers,

On Sunday, September the 11th, 2016, I will be taking part in the Memory Walk at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and in memory of the lady below.

Nan

This is a first: a post that has nothing to do with writing, creativity, art or politics. I’d like your attention for a few minutes to highlight a cause that means a lot to me: The Alzheimer’s Society. These guys do a huge amount of valuable work for people and families who are coping with dementia.

The stunner above, with the film star looks, was my Nan, (Nan is a term that some of us Brits use for Grandmother.) I never knew her when she looked like this, but the picture gives a hint of the fiery, cantankerous, strong willed woman that fed and spoilt me when I was growing up.

 

She died a few years ago, but we lost her long before that to dementia. My mother became her carer and had to watch first-hand as the woman she knew and loved slipped away. Eventually, it was too difficult to care for her at home and she had to go into a home. This was a very difficult decision for all involved.

The Alzheimer’s Society help many people like my Nan, but they rely upon donations from the public to do so. Please give what you can by clicking on the link below and help the Alzheimer’s Society to continue to do the essential work that they do.

Huge thanks to you all for reading.

 

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P.S. If you’d like to know more about the Alzheimer’s Society please click on the link below.
Alzeimers

Career Voyeur.

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I’m doing a bit of research; maybe you can help? I’m looking at jobs, different types of work, work I’ve not done before, stuff that’s unusual and usual. I’d like to shadow you while you work – this isn’t as creepy as it sounds it just means seeing how you do your job and what your job entails. The shadowing could last an hour, half a day, a whole day whatever’s best for you. I could even lend a hand if that’s permissible/possible – I won’t expect to sit in on any brain surgery though.Work Collage2
Please share this amongst your friends, followers, stalkers and if you are interested in having an affable writer scribble down some notes while you work then direct message me. For practical reasons, the work must be based in Birmingham unless it’s something unmissable, exotic, bizarre, rare, etc.

Night Swimming

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I’ve some rather lovely news to share. Those wonderful people at Mantle Lane Press are going to publish a small collection of my short stories entitled, Night Swimming.

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Shock horror!

Mantle Lane Press is based in Leicestershire and is an offshoot of Mantle Arts. Their aim is to support Midlands writers.

My collection will fall into their limited edition small books collection. These are similar in size to the Penguin 60s range and each features a cover image by a different artist, ensuring that they are attractive, unique and collectable.

I’ve just signed the contract and I’ll let you know more about it when I do.

Right, I’m off to give myself a good pinch.