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What I’ve Been Up To: the DWC and MUO

DWC - June 2016

Phew. It’s been quite a while since I updated this blog, so it’s about time I got back to it.

But I’ve had a busy time of it lately. I have excuses!

The biggest change is having to leave Kasterborous, where I’d worked for nearly five years, largely in an editorial role. Circumstances behind-the-scenes changed with Christian, Kasterborous’ founder, having left, and I wasn’t happy there anymore. A shed-load of invasive ads, completely out of my control, began to fill the site, most of which simply weren’t appropriate to the family audience. Further troubles led to my resignation.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of it. The wonderful Andy Reynolds, who had been writing for Kasterborous longer than I had (and took up editorial duties with me), joined me in co-founding a new Doctor Who site, and we brought the majority of Kasterborous writers with us. This includes Christian, and Mez Burdett, who’s namely in charge of reviews and was one of the first news contributors on Kasterborous.

The new site? The Doctor Who Companion. Or the DWC for short. Please do visit and leave us some feedback. It’d be very much appreciated.

We’re very pleased with its reception, and really happy that Kasterborous’ audience seems to have transferred over to the DWC with us. There are wrinkles to iron out, but on the whole, it seems successful. Onwards and upwards.

Elsewhere, I’m still writing for MakeUseOf. I’ve got over 100 articles published there, more than two years’ experience, so I seemed to have settled into that regular routine pretty well.

There, I write about all things technology. But I’m a dedicated author for the Security and Gaming sections, meaning that, although I write for other sections, the main focus is on those particular two. That’s a relatively new development, so I’m still trying to juggle the Security and Gaming quotas with contributing to, say, Entertainment, Creative, and the Internet sections. Still, I’m adjusting alright.

OS Mobile MUO homepage slider

Are there any particular recent articles I’m proud of? Hmm. There are a few I’d say show my work off best:

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone! I’ll try to update the blog as often as possible again, but for now, please do check out the DWC – your support is what will keep us going!

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Celebrating Towel Day and Douglas Adams: Why We Love City of Death

It’s Towel Day, a time to celebrate the work of much-loved writer, Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Dirk Gently). And I’ve been working with Lovarzi to make this infographic.

Adams scripted the fan-favourite Doctor Who serial, City of Death, so we thought it would be the ideal time to look back on this four-parter from 1979. It meant I had to rewatch the story for research purposes. I worked with Maninder Singh Sahota, director of Lovarzi, and a great designer to fulfill this idea, but boy am I happy with how it’s turned out.

Plus Maninder’s running a competition until tomorrow night over at the Lovarzi site.

I obviously wrote all the copy, but I also worked with Maninder to whittle it down and then expand it further in several edits, and created a basic design. Oh, and then I helped distribute it. So all in all, I’m very proud of it. I’m proud of Maninder, the designer, and how well it’s done.

As a side-note, I met Julian Glover last year, and he’s a very nice guy – and of course, a great actor!

doctor-who-city-of-death

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in PR, Published work, Television

 

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“Potentially Serious” Fire on Park Street, Bristol

Park Street was closed to traffic today after a fire broke out in the Salute bar and restaurant.

© Philip Bates

© Philip Bates

Eight firefighters attended the blaze, which consumed the ground-floor bar and the Escape Nightclub upstairs, filling the building with smoke. Fortunately, there were no injuries; however there were reports that a Bristol resident had tried to gain access to the property to save valuables.

Avon Fire and Rescue were called at 11:17am and the main road (leading from the Bristol Hippodrome up to Clifton) was shortly shut off to traffic and pedestrians, though the latter were soon let through once the fire had been contained. Diversions were put in place, but the road was opened again at roughly 2pm; it caused delays to public transport, particularly the bus routes that operate around the City Centre. The fire could easily have been much worst, particularly on a busy, hot day around lunchtime. Many restaurants line Park Street, including the ever-popular Nandos opposite the fire.

“[The fire crew] tackled the fire by pulling the ceiling down – the fire had got into the ceiling between two floors. So [it was] quite a serious fire for us,” Chris Geake from Avon Fire and Rescue told ITV. “Victorian properties pose their problems; with all-wooden construction and over two floors, we needed four pumping appliances.”

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Bizarrely, the BBC didn’t appear to be on location, despite having their South West headquarters in Clifton.

It’s believed that an electrical fault started the fire, though it still has to be investigated.

UPDATE: While much of the building was affected by smoke damage, the Escape Nightclub hopes to reopen within a fortnight.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Unpublished work

 

Pre-Order Kasterborous Magazine #2 Now!

The second issue of the Kasterborous Magazine is now available for pre-order!

K Mag 2

This time, we’re focusing on video games, from 1983’s Doctor Who: The First Adventure to the most recent (very popular) mobile game, Legacy. And I’ve got a feature in the mag, looking at the MMO game, Worlds in Time, launched in 2012. Unfortunately, it closed earlier this year, but that didn’t reflect the massive amount of thought and care that went into it. I interviewed Ben Badgett, Creative Director of BBC Worldwide Digital Entertainment & Games, about the process; he told me:

“We really wanted to fulfill the fantasy of having the Doctor choose the player to take them on adventures through space and time. I think that’s a huge part of the appeal of the companions, and part of staying true to the show.”

I’m in good company: editor, Christian Cawley, has bought together some great writers, including Mez Burdett; Scott Varnham; James McLean (who also designed it – and it really does look fantastic); Elton Townend-Jones… and The Valeyard!

I’m especially impressed by the clever cover. Utterly brilliant.

As well as a print and digital edition, this issue will also be available as an instantly-readable PDF for £1.99, accessible through most e-readers and of course, your PC. Plus, if you go with this option, you get Issue 1 completely free – and that one includes my interview with Eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith!

Believe me: a lot of work has gone into the issue and we’re all very proud of it.

Digital copies are expected to be available sometime next month.

The print version is available to pre-order today for just £9.99 from the Kasterborous Store.

 
 

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Working for MakeUseOf!

I’m very happy to say that I’ve been working for MakeUseOf, the techie site that helps solve your geeky quandaries and points you to cool stuff on the internet.

Foreign Languages App on MUO

So far, I’ve had six articles published throughout March and April. Please read, enjoy and share – or at least the first two!

Can Dashcams Stop ‘Crash for Cash’ Fraud?

My first article examines the rise in popularity of dashcams across the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and especially Russia in a bid to stop scammers.

Five Free Apps to Help You Learn A Foreign Language

One of my most popular articles. It’s always a great time to learn a new language and there are some great free services out there that’ll help you expand your mind.

10 Interesting Comic Book Writers You Should Follow on Twitter

A real pleasure to write, this feature looks at legends like Stan Lee and lesser-known scribes like Tony Lee.

Could These 3 Social Networks Succeed Facebook?

MUO Social Networks article

I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook, but it certainly has its advantages. This article imagines what will knock it off its perch, and has proven to be very popular too.

Stressful Day? These Alternative Free Apps Will Help!

We all have bad days, but instead of wallowing in apathy, you could always check out these five apps – go on; they’re free!

5 Essential Online Scrip Libraries For Wannabe Screenwriters

If you’ve visited my blog before – thank you! – you’ll know my ambitions to become a screenwriter, and maybe you share them. If so, the best inspiration I know is reading other scripts. Here are some great libraries to eat up all your spare time.

It really is cool to work for MakeUseOf and I want to take this opportunity to thank Tina Sieber, Christian Cawley and all the section editors (particularly Yaara Lancet, Saikat Basu, and Tim Brookes), who have all been very encouraging.

Check out my author’s page for more!

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Published work, Television

 

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Moffat on First Drafts and Honesty

Steven Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who, has given his tips on getting your script made, including pitch, first drafts and subsequent drafts; as well as dismissing some myths about writing, he also talks about how hard it is to write.

Steven Moffat 3

You know when you talk to someone about your story and you immediately sound like a loon and feel the idea is awful? In Doctor Who Magazine #471, he writes, tongue firmly in cheek, about why that experience is so painful:

“It is not that writers are sensitive beats – I am, but the rest are well hard – it is that writing is humiliating. It is cataloguing in public everything you think is insightful or clever or funny or exciting. Or, in fact, sexy, which is the worst. No writer has ever had sex, so frankly, it’s all guesswork.”

As Shrek says, ogres are like onions, and it’s exposing those layers to the world in a way very few actually do. It’s telling the truth.

He also tackles that first draft and a perceived wisdom passed on from writer to writer which makes very little sense…

“Everyone who ever says ‘It’s only a first draft’ can do to screaming hell and burn. Somehow that has become the norm. Writers say things like, ‘Well, it’s just a discussion document really!’ No it isn’t… The first draft is the real work. It’s when you haul the story out of the mud, and get a look at what you’ve got. The first draft is authorship – everything after that is engineering. So you give it everything. You draft and redraft every tiny moment, until you honestly believe it’s utterly, transcendently perfect. Until you’re tearing up at its golden qualities. The correct mental  state: there will be no other draft necessary past this, because it’s perfect! This is to be held simultaneously with the other, equally true thought: I will write many other drafts.”

I think this hits the nail on the head. Everyone just accepts that “writing is rewriting” and it’s probably just to make that first draft easier to put down on paper. It’s hard to start.

There are plenty more gems of advice in the issue’s Production Notes column and is truly fascinating for any wannabe screenwriter.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2014 in Television

 

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Ripper Street Revived!

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Ripper Street, one of my favourite dramas, was unjustly axed last year – but it’s been announced that the BBC has struck a deal with Amazon to bring it back for Series 3, with stars Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks; The Three Musketeers), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones; Soldier Soldier), Adam Rothenberg (Elementary; Alacatraz), and MyAnna Buring (Doctor Who; The Kill List).

Its axing, blamed on supposedly-low ratings but more likely that the show is costly to make, was met with outcry, particularly as Series 2 concluded on a game-changer. The scripts, it seems, have already been written, and Flynn has said that the upcoming run of eight episodes starts filming in May.

Amazon has saved the show with a co-production deal through its Prime Instant Video service (formerly LoveFilm). The online company is expected to air the episodes a few months before they arrive on the BBC.

I honestly think Ripper Street is one of the strongest dramas on TV; I highly advise everyone to seek out an episode from last year’s run, called Am I Not Monstrous?. Merrick’s monologue in last few scenes is just beautiful.

Created by Richard Warlow, you can read the script for Series 1, Episode 1, at the BBC Writer’s Room.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Television

 

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Badger Cull Feature in Somerset Life

Pick up the current issue of Somerset Life magazine to see my two-page feature on the badger cull.

Somerset Life

Priced £2.95, the issue, dated February 2014, is available in shops throughout the region – but if you’re outside Somerset and still want to read, you can check out the digital edition.

In my feature, I look at the pro-cull and anti-cull arguments, including interviews with DEFRA; James Small of the NFU, who believes the cull will help kill Bovine TB; Pauline Kidner, founder of local wildlife charity, Secret World; and their Scientific Advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Mullineaux (both of whom believe the cull is wrong, and are vaccinating badgers against TB).

The feature starts on page 27, but it’s well worth picking up a copy for further features on a drive from Portishead to Glastonbury Abbey; South Petherton; and a half-century celebration of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

In The Firing Line

There’s also a brilliantly extensive anti-cull letter on page 16 that’s worth the price of admission alone!

I want to thank everyone I talked to, everyone who helped source photos and my editor, Charlotte Skidmore. I’m really proud of the finished piece, and hope that it puts both sides across without bias.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Interview, Published work

 

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2013 in review

I quite like this little feature that WordPress does every year. Slow beginnings, I know, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of transparency now and then…

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks for reading so far, guys and gals!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Review: The Yellow Birds

I don’t read much war literature, but something about The Yellow Birds grabbed me.

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Maybe it’s the book’s intriguing title or its captivatingly simple cover. Perhaps it was because it won The Guardian’s First Book Award, and the first four pages are filled with praise from Homeland’s Damian Lewis, Man Booker Prize winner, Hilary Mantel, and BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo, as well as being named one of the Books of the Year by publications like New York Times, Scotsman and Evening Standard.

Likely, it was because it answers one simple question about Iraq: What was it like over there?

Kevin Powers, a former machine gunner for the US Army, delivers an affecting, haunting and beautifully-realised novel that deserves all the accolades it’s received.

The Yellow Birds somehow manages to describe the indescribable with layered, rhythmic prose and minimalist-but-effective dialogue. The plot is pleasingly simple yet focussed as one soldier makes a promise he can’t possibly keep to a fellow soldier’s mother: “I promise I’ll bring him home to you.”Powers masterfully uses this inevitability to play with the reader with a refreshingly non-linear narrative that gives insight into the life of Private John Bartle; not just during the war, but also after he comes home – if you can call it that.

The book cleverly cements the idea that fighting in Iraq, and that question, is just the beginning – and, paradoxically, the end. We’ve, perhaps, become desensitised somewhat to the endless war, and to the fact that a human life is transformed entirely when he or she becomes a soldier. I was horrified over many of the book’s details as it trod the line between fiction and fact. It’s visceral and choking, but always honest and thought-provoking.

The way Powers questions what is right and what is wrong resonates long after you turn the final page.

But when Bartle comes home, essentially an empty shell, it’s just as surprising. What do soldiers do once the war has passed them by? How do they feel as we celebrate their homecomings after they’ve left their friends behind, broken and dead? And what happens once we forget about them?

Of course, this all sounds deeply depressing, but Powers balances out the terror, the chaos and the numbness with blindingly beautiful writing; his varying sentence structure, poetic language, and emotive descriptions. The examination of relationships from-the-heart. It all contrasts so wonderfully with the raw and vivid circumstances, the rough and crude dialogue.

The Yellow Birds rounds off satisfactorily, as if you’re leaving a friend in his new-found calmness. It’s powerful and heart-breaking. It would take a stone heart to weather the journey without at least a tear in the eye.

The concluding reading group questions are a bit jarring – but then, I’ve never been in a reading group. Maybe they act as an ideal ‘Starter for Ten.’ The interview with Kevin is a worthy addition, however, as the author admits: “the cliché, in my case, was true: I thought that the army would ‘make me a man’.”

It’s a very personal book but one with speaks harsh truths about humanity during wartime, and Powers’  concluding passage, in which he briefly mulls over his own writing experience, underlines the novel’s importance: forever a reminder.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2013 in Books

 

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