Thursday, 29 October 2009

Review: Jubilee (2009)

Doug Rao's second short film perfectly captures the reality of modern underclass Britain, and the political forces that are taking tenuous hold in our society. Patrick Baladi is pitch perfect as Nick Bright, the "new" face of the "Patriot" party, with Sam Spruell as Phil Walker, the foil, a man utterly at sea with the "modern" message of the party. As they work their way around the estate, Bright encounters a beautiful young Asian woman from his past; an encounter which throws into question his whole philosophy.

Rao's script cleverly avoids cliché and packs an emotional punch. Their fundamental differences drive the two protagonists further apart and their journey overspills into violence. Yet even his revulsion at Walker's Neanderthal tactics does not change Bright's own course, and he ultimately rejects his earlier apparent change of heart.

As writer and director, Doug Rao is clearly one to watch for the future of British cinema.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Exercise? Moi?

Those who know me well, know that I am a large and somewhat un-co-ordinated female who really isn't great at exercising. I set out with the best of intentions, but life always gets in the way. Or, rather, I let it.

Which is why buying a yoga dvd would appear to be yet another one of my starts liberally coated with good intentions.

Okay...I do have to admit that there is a certain degree of "fan" curiosity in learning more about yoga. It is no secret that my two favourite characters from "The Bill", were DS Stuart Turner (played by Doug Rao) and DC Jo Masters (played by Sally Rogers), and personally speaking, I was somewhat gutted when Stuey departed for "Specialist Trafficking".

Nor is it precisely a secret that, in addition to his considerable acting talent, Doug also finds time to be a writer, director and producer and a yoga teacher. So it should come as no surprise that he decided to make a yoga dvd with his dad, Sam.

Sam Rao is a yoga teacher of international repute. It becomes clear why as soon as you start to get into the section on the various postures and demonstrations of them; he exudes a calm, quiet authority which is very reassuring – particularly if you're like me and apt to forget right from left in moments of stress. The explanations of the postures are all very clear and concise, and the demonstrations simple to follow. The classes are well put together and relaxing, and again it's all very easy to catch on.

Sam and Doug create an easy, relaxed atmosphere, and clearly enjoy what they are doing as they offer their viewers the obvious health benefits.

I am somewhat of an authority on the exercise vid. Over the years I have bought an awful lot of them. Very few are as easy to follow, as concise and clear as the Rao dvd; and (most refreshing of all) there isn't any high-pressure stuff. No wild claims that overnight you will drop ten stone, wriggle into that size eight Herve dress that you had in your wildest dreams and score a date with James Bond.

"Ah, but, " I can hear you say, "she's just another nutty fangirl..."

I should at this point, scotch the fangirl thing. I'm a writer, and my tongue spends a lot of time in my cheek. Aside from my own novels, one of my specialities is arcane fanfiction... most of which visits all matter of indignities upon DS Stuart Turner's person. Stuey was just so easy to send's irresistible, really.

Anyway, I digress. The dvd is excellent. Easy to follow instructions, relaxing atmosphere, attractively packaged and put together and very professional. Well worth the outlay.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009



Okay... I have now officially moved from mildly irritable to really peeved. What the heck are the producers doing to TB?

I get the new gritty storylines and more explosions... (not with any real feeling of joy that's for certain) and I get the concept behind the 'new dynamic', honestly I do.

But watching the exodus of good characters, leaving us with the pretty but dumb ones is really, really irritating. Now they appear to be sidelining experience and gravitas for no other reason than an impression that pretty and young appeals to their audience?? (If I'm wrong about this... Producers please tell me so...)

TB's audience is not entirely composed of teenagers... the more I read about actors leaving and being sidelined, the fewer reasons I can justify to continue watching into the new post-watershed.

Producers... TB has spent the last almost three years getting back on track, please don't throw the baby out with the bath water!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Authonomy.... A New Kind of Disaster!!

As many of you know, I joined this site months ago, and I've been more or less happily plugging my books ever since. It was an odd kind of place, there was a sort of concensus on behaviour, and dispite folks' inability to hold their tongues (and occasionally their liquor) it all bumbled along reasonably pleasantly. Or as pleasantly as you can expect from a collective of people whose favourite thing is essentially a solitary endeavour.

Then along came a young man with a book, and a fanbase for something completely different. All hell broke loose. The young man's fans shelved his book in their thousands. The old guard were (perhaps justifiably) annoyed by this. Then apart from some serial moaning (from both sides of the arguement), things appeared to settle down a bit.

Until now.

I've held to one criterion only ever since I joined. Would I buy the book? If I would I shelve it, and comment on it. If I wouldn't, I either say why, or pass on by. Simple. It works for me.

This morning, I saw I had a new comment. Oooooh goodie... I thought. I was doomed to disappointment. It wasn't a new comment at all, what it was, was a five line bleat about how another reader/writer had used his high talent spotter ranking to artificially manipulate the system to keep the young man's book out of the top five, so this guy was doing the same, and would I shelve his book for ten minutes. Oh and by the way I should split my blurb into two paragraphs.

I did hit all four walls at once. I know exactly what he can do with his high TSR... I'm more than happy to do it for him... with a poker! In theory my parents brought me up to be a lady, so convention prevents me expressing myself in the precise terms (actually neatly provided for me by my blacksmith!) that I would like to about this guy's past, his present and suffice to state, if I did catch up with him, his future would be brief, and exceptionally unhappy.

Out of extreme interest... what exactly did this joker think was going to happen? That I would fall down and grovel and be pathetically grateful that he noticed my book at all? If this is the kind of BS that's going to happen, Authonomy is broke. Irretrievably.

Pardon for the outraged rant... but I felt the need to vent! I'm not the only one that received the message and the backing... It almost tempts me to go and back the young man's book, even though I read it and didn't like it, and have already told him that I wouldn't buy it.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes is the first Year Zero project. Here you will find the Year Zero manifesto.

The problem

The Factory: agents, editors, media arbiters of taste, publishers. A chain of filters that takes raw fiction, cuts it, sells it on, cuts it again until the street product peddled to readers is weak, toxic, and addictive.

YEAR ZERØ exists to eliminate the impurities and deliver prose in the pure and raw.

Pushing the boundaries of substance through new technologies, YEAR ZERØ provides prose just as addictive, in many cases just as toxic, but with a powerful, instant high that will stay with you for life.

YEAR ZERØ is not an industry. YEAR ZERØ is not a group of writers. YEAR ZERØ is not a set of beliefs. YEAR ZERØ is an approach to culture.
Culture is the breath we suck from• each others’ lips.

Culture is not alive. Culture is• life.

Readers and writers, like all• producers and consumers of culture, cannot exist apart from each other. They exist only insomuch as literature flows between them. Inasmuch as The Factory exists to separate readers from writers it exists only to bring death, to create ghosts and hollow men.

Culture speculates; culture takes• risks; culture hijacks every human artifice and structure in the name of life.

YEAR ZERØ exists as a conduit for this process.

We are not YEAR ZERØ. We are some of its voices. You are its heart.

We are, among others: Garalt Canton, Larry Harrison, Dan Holloway, Annia Lekka-Blazoudaki, Gupter Puncher

On June 1 we will be releasing “Brief Objects of Beauty and Despair”, a quilt of prose patched together from all our writers

Our first novels will be released on September 1, 2009, with further releases following quarterly.

‘Benny Platonov’ by Gupter Puncher.
Benny Platonov will save the eight-hundred and fifty-seven homeless of Hong Kong. He will save them with his words!

Glimpses of a Floating World - Larry Harrison
It is 1963. Scandals like the Profumo and Challenor cases are exposing the dark underbelly of post-war Britain, while one of the first teenagers to be addicted to heroin and cocaine undergoes a cold turkey in prison. A poetic and triumphant elegy to a seedy, vice-ridden London of the Sixties.

Songs from the Other Side of the Wall - Dan Holloway.
Sandrine, who has grown up in post-communist Hungary, faces the choice that will shape her future – to stay in the cosmopolitan life of art and music she shares with Bohemian sculptress, Yang; or to return to the rural vineyard her dying father’s family has run for 300 years. She is led on a journey across Europe and cyberspace, accompanied by diaries that appear from nowhere, a talking bull, and an elderly fashion mogul who may be telepathic.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Yet More Lists... Tag some folk see what happens!

It's All About You
01. Name: SJ
02. Nickname: SJ or Mocky
03. Age: somewhere in the middle
04. Location: Surrey dweller....... just outside London
05. Gender: female
06. Tattoo/Piercings?: no tats, too permanent, one hole in each ear (that was bad enough, they went all yucky)
07. Dream Job: Writer
08. Words that describe you best: temperamental, fiesty, inclined to procrastinate,
09. Eye Colour: green
10. Pets: Dan the dog
11. Are there any words you can't say outloud? yes, and they're not suitable for printing here either
12. How laid back are you? can be very, depends on my mood.
13. Do you procrastinate? How much? Of course, sometimes for a very long time
14. How many pillows do you have on your bed? One
15. Have you ever stayed in hospital? No.
16. Which song describes you best? The one that breaks my heart is Think Twice
17. Do you have/want children? It was the dearest wish of my heart, but I'm 44, think that ship has sailed.
18. Do you believe in Father Christmas? Nah

First thing you...
01. Do in a morning:
02. Wash in the shower/bath: shower
03. Do when you get into bed: write
04. Do when you get into a car: plug in all my stuff
05. Do/Did at school/work: input a million forms, check a million letters, post them off
06. Do when you get home after a long day: Make myself a drink
07. Do when you go on the computer: Check all my various fora and email accounts
08. Touch in the morning: my dog

01. Television show: NCIS and The Bill
02. Character from that show: Abbey (NCIS) & Stuart (TB)
03. TV Actor: Doug Rao
04. TV Actress: Pauley Perrette
05. Singer/Band: Toby Keith and The Beautiful South
06. Song: As Good as I once was & One Last Love Song
07. Food: Sushi
08. Colour: purple
09. Season: Autumn
10. Day of the week: Monday
11. Subject at school: History of Art
12. Film: Casablanca
13. Film Actor: Humphrey Bogart (no one's ever matched Bogie)
14. Film Actress: Bette Davis
15. Book: If I'm reading it, To Kill A Mockingbird... Writing it? Fatal Diversion, my first collaboration
16. Author: Douglas Adams, Janet Evanovich, Preston/Child
17. Soap: don't watch 'em, but if you're referring to the bath variety, the citrus imperial leather.....
18. Cheese: Jarlsberg
19. Smell: Lavender
20. Taste: Savoury

What/who was the last thing you...?
01. Ate: Piece of Pizza
02. Drank: water
03. Watched: The Mummy
04. Read: The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul (I love a bit of improbability)
05. Laughed at: the dog
06. Shouted at: the mother
07. Talked to: my mates
08. Hugged: my best friend
09. Bought: Blink on DVD
10. Threw away: pizza box
11. Said: NO.............NO........... What part of NO is unclear?.............No...........Oh allright, yes then!
12. Smelt: Okay that does it, heavens to betsy, what the devil did you just eat??? (to the dog)
13. Thought about: I'm too old to tell you, and you are far too young to know.....
14. Wished you were doing: See question 13
15. Missed: Being in love......

Decisions, Decisions...
01. Blanket or Stuffed Animal? cuddly toy every time
02. Summer or Winter? Summer
03. Coca Cola or Pepsi? Pepsi
04. Salt and Vinegar or Cheese And Onion? Cheese and Onion
05. Lefty or Righty? Right handed
06. Gold or Silver? both
07. Love or friendship? both, they're indivisible.
09. Fish or Chips? Fish
10. Busy or Lazy? Busy

01. What do you want to be when you're older? I'm going to get older???
02. Are you looking forward to anything? Yes, but whether it will ever happen is another matter
03. What are your pet hates? IGNORANCE, it should be a hanging offence......
04. What is your most embarrassing moment? A bus in Italy, a huge elderly man, his big sweaty paw on my knee, his other hand making adjustments to the front of his trousers, more than that I am not prepared to reveal.
05. Is the glass half empty or half full? Half full of course
06. Do you regret anything? Je ne regrete rien
07. Do you have any posters? Yes
08. Which chat show host would you love to be interviewed by? None of them. Tho I would like to get that Jeremy Kyle bloke........ vengeance for all the sad losers he's paraded across the screen for the baying crowd's entertainment...... just what kind of person is he??
09. Would you like to be famous? No
10. Would you prefer to be rich or in love with 'the one'? LOVE. Money will not keep you warm and loved at night.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Questions and Answers..... and very long lists

The current wheeze on Facebook is lists. Whether they're one word answers, or facts about yourself, or just amusing stuff that you make up in desperation, it's fascinating learning more about one's mates. So far all my lists have been absolutely true... even if I am trying to put an amusing spin on it all.

So in the spirit of list making, here's my list to cover all eventualities:

1) Yes, I honestly do have six first names. No, I am not particularly happy about it, but there you go...
2) My mother and I have a volatile relationship. We frequently shout at each other. This is normal service, so please don't be alarmed.
3) I have a passion for museums. Particularly, the British Museum and the V&A. I've been a member of the V&A on and off for about twelve years.
4) My museum addiction means that a holiday without museums is complete torture to me. Heaven to me is museum shaped...
5) I have a peculiar relationship to food. I am constitutionally incapable of coping with MaccyDs anymore. Japanese, Italian or Indian are my poisons of choice.
6) I have a fairly peculiar relationship to alcohol. Champagne, rum or Jack Daniels. That's y'lot. (or my lot... depending on how you look at it!).
7) I am quite fond of rodents, I have bred mice, hamsters, rats and gerbils at one time or another.
8) I am not scared of snakes or spiders. I am however well aware that certain members of both species are dangerous to humans. I therefore choose to avoid all specimens of both. Just in case.
9) I have one hole in each ear. Piercing was not a particularly happy experience for me. So one hole in each ear is my lot.
10) I have all my own teeth. I brush them quite obsessively a minimum of three times a day. They may not be bright white, but they're strong and have never let me down.
11) I used to have a caravan. I love camping but unfortunately, I associate the caravan with some fairly unpleasant experiences. So I don't love caravans.
12) I love my tent. Perhaps not wisely, but too well. I am ye original hippy chick...
13) I speak three languages, other than English, quite badly. They improve mightily when I'm in the country where they are spoken. My goal now is to learn Japanese.
14) I love my pets. Sometimes far too well. My dog, Danny, takes advantage of this.
15) I had an excellent relationship with my father. He taught me a few things, how to wire a plug, change a fanbelt etc. Possibly because he knew my mother was a total dunce at it.
16) I never completed my first degree. Until relatively recently this didn't seem to matter, and I don't regret dropping out in the slightest. But now is the time for a change.
17) I am passionately fond of Italy. Whoever actually said "Italy isn't a country, it's an emotion" was perfectly correct. Even though the North is where all big industry and cool shops are, and it has its own beauty and charm; my favourite part is in the South, starting at Naples and heading down past the Amalfi Coast and Salerno.
18) I'm also passionately fond of water. I lived by the sea for eighteen months and I loved it. I would still be living by the sea if it weren't for certain factors, being perpetually broke would be one of them.
19) I used to live in East London, which was also near to water. It was quite a nerve wracking experience, but worth it; and I still miss it.
20) I am, like my mother, a squirrel. I keep things just in case. This is not to say that I am as bad as my mother is about keeping things: she kept the old and mostly broken television in the study for three and a half years after I bought a brand new one... just in case. Periodically we are living in duplicate. This can be slightly surreal.
21) I love art. Passionately. This does hark back to my museum fetish, but I also occasionally make art. I am a reasonably passable photographer, but I can't paint to save my life.
22) I love our ramshackle garden, even though I am fairly bad at growing things in it. This year I was planning on a few vegetables for starters. Possibly a hen or two. The Good Life it won't be, but as an antidote to the supermarket, might actually be helpful.
23) I bought a book on how to make a yurt and live comfortably in it, because a yurt sounds more comfortable and warmer than a cardboard box. This is my version of forethought and planning.
24) I dislike our governments, since the 1970s, they've proved themselves to be stupid, avaricious and unreliable. There is no need for an underclass, for disaffected dole queue bludgers, for children to be giving birth to children, for an I'm Alright Jack society which favours the obscenely wealthy at the expense of the masses. The result is the mess we're in now.
25) Somewhere in the grand scheme of things life turned out pretty good for me. I've had a lot of luck, I believe passionately in paying some of that luck forward.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

A Cautionary, or should that be Corpse-strewn, tale!

Okay. I'm back in, what is for me, familiar and comfortable territory. My latest manuscript has been kicking around in various guises for a lot longer than you know, but until now had not seen the light of day. For various reasons, I held back on pressing the send button. The content for one. It contains a few scenes that have had the effect of scaring the bejazus out of the male test subjects who read it. "Winter" is darker and dirtier than other things I have written, even more so than Half Light (and that can get pretty down and dirty too).

The story revolves around Arabella, a twenty-stone, fiery tempered and individualistic dominatrix in her forties, who finds the remains of one of her clients in the alleyway next to her home. This unfortunate circumstance brings the law and its size twelves to her doorstep, in the person of Jake Turner, a young fast-track DI, who has more than a few problems of his own, not the least his stomach ulcer and his apparently inexplicable attraction to Arabella. Jake struggles to make sense of any of it, whilst dealing with his two hostile sergeants, the ever growing suspicion that he has an enemy within the ranks, and a case load that he can no longer control. His one constant being his unconventional relationship with Bella.

Under the strain, Jake's health breaks down, and he finds himself shuffled sideways into a comfortable country posting. Now living openly with Bella, who's left the life behind, they start to build a new life away from all their troubles. Until the Grey Man Killer turns up on their doorstep, and Jake must face this dangerous enemy and defeat him.

This one's quite personal for me. It deals with issues, some of which I have dealt with my entire life. Body image, control in personal relationships, accepting what we cannot control, fear, death, and running away from our troubles. Though, before anyone asks, Bella is not me. She has elements of me, and some of the things that come out later in the story are feelings I have had and dealt with. The eagle eyed amongst you, especially the ones who know about my "The Bill" addiction and my favourite character, will have picked up on the curious familiarity of Jake's surname. Entirely co-incidental. I used my normal method of surname selection, close my eyes, open the telephone directory, stab downwards with pencil (scream in pain as pencil misses telephone directory and stabs me in leg), open eyes and have a look where pencil landed. This time pencil landed in a batch of Turners. It's fate... honestly!

To facilitate the distribution of A. Winter's Tale around the universe, gathering readers like a sponge soaking up water, I've created a facebook group... hoping that my mates, and possibly their mates too... will join in the party, although "Winter" isn't suitable for the under 18s. Please feel free to join, invite your friends etc. The more, the merrier..!

Monday, 2 February 2009

One foot three inches

Of snow. England grinds to a halt. This is normal. Do not adjust your set. When I was a lot younger, I spent an unreal amount of time trying to work out exactly why this should be... but now, put it down to the marvellous British habit of muddling through. Heaven forfend that we should have a plan, and that plan should be put into smooth operation with immediate effect. Nah. Much more fun if you trust to serendipity... or that old favourite. Do nothing.

It's a good thing that I have food in the house. Because I am not going to try and hike into town. That all sounds like far too much hard work.

I am not a cold weather person. I prefer summer. I like warmth, and sun, and pretty flowers... stuff like that. Not cold, grey/white... and not a flower in sight.

Speaking of hard work. Authonomy. I have to admit that my enthusiasm has been flagging of late. Every now and again I get another little burst. But the now and the again are getting further and further apart. Hassle much? If you don't spend every waking hour Authonomising, some one else will and you fall off the ED. Temper much? Scratchy in the forums... wise to avoid if possible. Though this scratchiness has been almost exclusively male. Proving beyond reasonable doubt that man's place is in the armoury! (or that's where "he" would like it to be!). And the prize... is it honestly worth winning?

Not meaning to be funny, or rude, but some of those crits? Jeez. If the Editor's Cat, Mittens, knocked it up on the ancient battleship of a typewriter that's been stuck in the office since 1950, I wouldn't be surprised. So you stay up until one in the morning seven days a week, plugging and spamming until you meet yourself coming back, for that?? Nah. There has to be a better way.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Garalt Canton's "The Fifth Kingdom"

The first time I read this I knew that this project was going to be huge. The book has a dramatic sweep which boggles the mind. There is nothing small about this idea. As Gary himself says I am developing a project that will have the same impact upon the literary, gaming and online markets as The Harry Potter Series.

The Fifth Kingdom goes live at Easter 2009. You heard it here first.... for sneak previews head to Authonomy: The Fifth Kingdom.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Marcus Trefoil and the Tea Cosy of Doom

or "I'm Puce With Envy". Not only is this the funniest thing I have read in years (mental note to self, the consumption of beverages is incompatible with the reading of side splittingly funny books), as the shower of coffee that hit my laptop screen will testify, but it's genius is the plug has seen it rise 1941 places in two days with 36 bookshelves to its credit, a plug which began before it even appeared on our screens. Abu, my old china... you've cracked it. You've found the key to the kingdom.

Now you would have thought that a book written solely as an extremely ingenious way to plug another book, might just be a sort of half cocked attempt at humour, and promptly remain in the doldrums at the bottom of the pile. Not a bit of it. Markie is one of the funniest things I have ever read.... never mind that opening statement.... it's also beautifully and incisively observed. People have read out of curiosity and backed out of sheer unadulterated admiration (and perhaps a little carpet biting envy!).

If you don't believe me, follow the link, Marcus Trefoil and the Tea Cosy of Doom, taking care to put all beverages out of harm's way. You won't be disappointed. Exhausted, and with a curious ache in the region of your stomach muscles perhaps.

Friday, 16 January 2009

POD...The New Year's Shock Email

I've got very mixed feelings about this. I received the email from Authonomy as part of an exclusive crowd of approximately a couple of thousand. Some are angry, some are excited, me? I'm confused.

On one hand, a most attractive offer, it has HC behind it (as the owners of Authonomy), it offers you the chance to get into print (and isn't that what we all really want?). On the other hand, POD takes you book out of the running to get it in the hands of someone who might want to publish it in a conventional way.

Then there's the question of who will buy. Who will buy? Auth is mostly composed of other writers. So, other writers, friends, family and who else?? I would like to think that a few complete strangers who have never put pen to paper in the cause of writing a book would like to buy mine, and read it, may be release it into the wild to allow other complete strangers to enjoy it.

But.... this little voice keeps whispering in my ear.... you could get published in a month or so... quite seductive that little voice!

I'm going to stick to the game plan. Almost certainly. I've been too good at dilly-dallying and taking the wrong path before. I want my shot at a contract, and even if I have a pile of rejection slips at the end of it, I will have taken my best shot first.