Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Snapshots of Minneapolis

Earlier this month I went to Minneapolis in Minnesota for AWP 2015, the world's biggest creative writing conference. I knew next to nothing about my destination before arriving, aside from limited exposure via a handful of films and TV shows ostensibly set in the city or the state [Purple Rain, Fargo, The Mary Tyler Moore Show].

As a longtime devotee of Prince, a pilgrimage to First Avenue was essential [above]. En route I nearly collided with a statue of Mary Tyler Moore outside Macy's [below], depicting an iconic moment from her eponymous sitcom's title sequence.

Thanks to Fargo, I knew Scandinavian people had settled in the state. That was proven by a specialist Swedish shop [see above] near the AirBNB place where I stayed. I didn't know Minneapolis had a considerable Somali community [see below].

The street where I stayed was also popular with Hispanic families, and numerous shops stocked amazing variations on cowboy clothes and boots. I'm fond of pointy shoes, but even I might struggle with the footwear shown above.

Minneapolis is an incredibly bicycle-friendly city, with special cycle-only roads and pathways. Like many a metropolis, it has racks of low-cost bicycles available for rent on street corners. Minneapolis is home to the Walker Art Centre, which has a striking sculpture garden nearby.

When I visited, the Walker was celebrating its 75th anniversary with a selection of 75 donated pieces. Below are just a few of the gems that were on display...

But in case it was all too lovely, I couldn't help noticing the sign below on my way out. Every time I turned on the TV in Minneapolis, all the news shows were showing shocking footage of an unarmed black man being shot in the back and killed by a policeman.

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.

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!