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Category Archives: Unpublished work

“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Posted by on June 5, 2014 in Unpublished work

 

Top 10 books I read in 2012

I read a lot of books, a lot of graphic novels, a lot of comics. It’s my craft; it’s what I love.

What I read, obviously, influences what I write (and vice versa), and so pinpointing the ten best books I read last year helps me focus on what I like in a story. It seems variety is the key! So, in no particular order…

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Cast of Sherlock

The massively-successful Sherlock TV series on BBC1, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, spurred me on to discover the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and I’m so glad it did! A Study in Scarlet was a revelation, and I eagerly picked up The Sign of Four. I now have all the Sherlock books, and so I began 2012 by reading the third book in the series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s the first of the short story compilations, and once again, Doyle’s wonderfully easy but genius style made it an absolute pleasure to spend time with Holmes and Watson. This year, I’ll endeavour to read the next three books, ready for Sherlock returning to screen.

Fahrenheit 451

I picked this up on a whim, but it started my love of Ray Bradbury’s writing. It’s such a cliche (a phrase which, ironically, has also become cliche!) but Fahrenheit 451 really spoke to me. The level of thought that had gone into the novel, the amount of love and passion, came through instantly. It’s a book about a world without books. It’s a terrifying thought, but you completely buy into it. It’s still as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1953, if not more so.

Crooked House

Gemma Arterton is set to star in the film adaptation of Crooked House

Gemma Arterton is set to star in the film adaptation of Crooked House

Agatha Christie, whom I’ve been a fan of for quite some time now, is brilliant. I love her work, and The Agatha Christie Book Collection is a perfect way to fuel my imagination and fascination. Crooked House is so ingenious, it blew me away. Nothing is quite how you expect. (Although my Mum figured out who the murderer is, I hadn’t got a clue!) It’s a surprisingly disturbing novel, and the end is really shocking. It’s the definition of a ‘whodunit.’

Fatherland

Fatherland

What if the Nazis had won?

Once the notion was planted in my head, I couldn’t escape from it. I needed to pick up this book by Robert Harris. It’s so simple – why hasn’t every novelist done it before?! Maybe because they couldn’t beat the quality of Fatherland. In its anniversary year, I couldn’t put this down – even if, with German insignia on the front, it made me look like a Nazi sympathiser!

The Girl on the Landing

I’d read Paul Torday’s previous novels (his first, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, being his most famous) but this altogether different. It’s more disturbing than those that preceded it, and leaves a lot to the imagination – but that just makes it more unsettling.

The lead character is a normal, boring bloke – until he sees the titular girl on the landing, who may or may not be real. Things soon spiral out of control and you soon can’t put the book down.
Though The Irresistible Inheritance of Wiberforce is my favourite of Torday’s books, The Girl on the Landing is up there with the best.

Mack The Life

Lee Mack is, by far, my favourite comedian, and his autobiography is hilarious. In fact, it’s the first autobiography I’ve ever read in its entirety; I’ve tried others, sure, but they’ve never gripped me as much as this one.

For all my thoughts on this revealing book, take a look at my review for The British Comedy Guide.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

Spurred on by the exceptional Skyfall (and watching Daniel Craig’s previous outings as the famous MI6 agent), I was surprised at the debut of James Bond in Casino Royale. It was everything Bond encompasses, but it was also sensitive and heartfelt. The main action was over midway through the novel, but Casino Royale is about Bond falling in love: a brave step to start out an action/thriller series. Live and Let Die waits for me on the bookshelf.

The Ghost

I nabbed The Ghost, another book by Robert Harris, when it was on offer at Waterstones for just £2.99, and I’m massively glad I did!

The Ghost

Harris’ style is pacy and pleasing, intriguing but warm. The interaction between characters is just as important as the mystery behind the new PM, Adam Lang. It really got me into the conspiratorial mindset for my script, A Writer’s Retreat, and was a thoroughly entertaining novel.

The Illustrated Man

Ray Bradbury came up with the clever idea of bookending a collection of short stories with an intensely unsettling tale of the Illustrated Man, whose tattoos come alive and tell the chilling and thought-provoking tales.

It’s especially interesting to see Bradbury’s exploration and obsession with this idea as just last week, I finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s also interesting to note how Bradbury’s writing style changes – and yet stays the same, or, at the very least, recognisably Bradbury. Perhaps this is because his fairytale-esque tinged with horror tone comes through in whatever he writes?

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By

Ice Lord

The final novel I read in 2012 was this considerable narrative by Dan Abnett, which sees Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory Williams come up against one of the Doctor’s most-notable enemies, the Ice Warriors.

It was a real pleasure to read, with great characterisation, a well-thought-out plot, a big twist or two, and a wonderfully creepy-yet-beautiful backdrop. While the ending wasn’t perfect, the novel, as a whole, is a gem – and a must-read for Doctor Who fans!

 
 

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Did Titanic sink Wild at Heart?

ITV’s Wild At Heart has been axed after seven series, and – according to The Daily Mirror – the cast are blaming the Julian Fellowes-penned drama, Titanic.

An undisclosed ‘source’ supposedly told the paper:

“The feeling is that they sunk so much money into Titanic that they are having to make savings elsewhere and we are bearing the brunt of that. We’re all gutted that it has come to this. There are shows that would kill for 7.5million viewers.”

The show has been rumoured for the chop since February, and I can’t really see how this is a valid argument. Titanic was a lavish, costly production, obviously, but Wild at Heart is a popular family show that has run its course.

Jenna-Louise Coleman in 'Titanic.'

Wild at Heart – created by the fantastic Ashley Pharaoh (Life on Mars; Ashes to Ashes) – tells the story of the Bristol-born Trevanions adjusting to a new life in South Africa. The show’s strengths lay in its beautiful vistas and animals, strong characters and insight into another life.

The show has remained a firm favourite of many families since its initial transmission in 2006, returning to screens every January, and running into March. However, the average number of viewers has dropped, with series one getting an average of 9.67 million and has wavered around the 8 million mark ever since. Last series, though, dropped to an average of 6.73 million – a rating that still dented BBC’s Upstairs, Downstairs – taking a hit opposite the immensely popular Call the Midwife and Sherlock.

ITV's 'Titanic.'

As the ‘source’ says, though, the ratings are still competitive… but surely it’s best to end it on a high than let it dwindle away into obscurity.

The series will be given a 2-hour finale, to be filmed in September, and broadcast next year; something that many cancelled shows don’t get the privilege of.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2012 in Television, Unpublished work

 

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Ricky Gervais on Derek and offending an audience

Ricky Gervais’ new comedy pilot, Derek, airs on Channel 4 this Thursday, but the vultures are already circling…

Disability rights campaigner, Nicky Clark, interviewed the award-winning comedian about Derek, as the title-character is being criticised before the show is even broadcast! Their main issue is, apparently, that the titular character is disabled; however, Gervais denies this:

“He’s different. But then so are a lot of people. He’s not the smartest tool in the box but he’s cleverer than Father Dougal, and not as different as Mr. Bean. He’s based on those people you meet who are on the margins of society. Nerds, loners, under achievers.”

These criticisers seem to have more of an issue with Gervais himself, in fact; he certainly has previous with offending people, though. He seems to have become synonymous with the word ‘mong’ now, as many were offended by its use on Twitter – despite the fact he’s been using it on-air for many years previously (particularly when near his mate, Karl Pilkington).

Mrs. Clark, though, maintains that Derek is actually “the story of a socially isolated, gentle vulnerable man surrounded by other people who society wants to forget, but told with humour, heart and real warmth. It’s a comedy in my opinion, which shows the reality of a life of otherness.”

I’ve talked about how political correctness is definitely an issue for writers when Jeremy Clarkson said that all strikers should be shot, and Gervais explores this more here:

“I see offence as the collateral damage of free speech. I hate the thought of a person’s ideas being modified or even hushed up because someone somewhere might not like to hear them.

Outside actually breaking the law or causing someone physical harm “hurting someone’s feelings” is almost impossible to objectively quantify.

What some people might find offensive, others will not. Such is life. Offence is rarely about right and wrong but rather about feelings. Feelings are personal. Trying to have a consensus about what is objectively offensive is rather like arranging books in a library in order of merit. We’d all have a completely different order in mind.”

And I definitely agree. Somebody will always take offense. It’s interesting how times have changed, and how this can be portrayed onscreen.

In Doctor Who: Human Nature/ The Family of Blood, the year is 1913 and the Doctor’s companion, Martha, is accused of lying by Nurse Redfern because “women can’t be doctors.” Martha proves her wrong, of course, but then look at Gene Hunt in Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, someone who wears his beliefs proudly. Sure, Sam Tyler and Alex Drake consider him ignorant, but he’s a lovable character, who the audience rooted for every week.

But once again, I’m sure many took offence.

The real question here is: is it more important to tell a strong, determined story than be confined by worries that people will be offended? Yes, it depends on the writer, but we all really know the answer to this, don’t we?

Don’t forget to watch Derek on Thursday; I’m sure it’ll be hilarious and heart-warming. Plus, it stars Karl Pilkington!

It’s just a shame it looks as if Channel 4 won’t be commissioning a full series.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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10 writers you should follow on Twitter

The main advantage of Twitter is that you can talk to and gain experience from some of the big names in any industry. And writing being my speciality…

Just think of it as a big #ff (follow Friday).

1.       Steven Moffat

@steven_moffat

Do you really have to ask? The Moff is the showrunner of Doctor Who and Sherlock, and has written some of the best television of all time. Why aren’t you following him already?

Typical tweet:

“About to do Sherlock interviews in Paris but WITHOUT @ Markgatiss. It’ll all be bad taste and no erudition.”

2.       Stan Lee

@TheRealStanLee

The living legend himself. Stan “The Man” Lee created Spider-man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four – and countless more! He’s a true hero of mine.

Typical tweet:

“Wouldja believe I once got a royalty check for ONE CENT?!! They spent more than that to send it to me!”

Stan is The Man

3.       Tom MacRae

@tommacwriter

He burst onto the scene with Doctor Who: Rise of the Cybermen/ Age of Steel (2006) with Russell T. Davies as his mentor, but has since written for the 11th Doctor (in The Girl Who Waited) and created a hit sitcom for Comedy Central UK: Threesome.

Typical tweet:                  

“Email spam today: ‘Did You Know You Could Make A Living As A Full-Time Writer?’. Yes. I did, thanks.”

4.       Simon Guerrier

@0tralala

Science-fiction and freelance writer, who sums himself up as a ‘glorified typist.’ He’s written for many mediums and edited Big Finish’s Short Trips range. My favourite book of his is The Time Travellers: all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey!

Typical tweet:

“Transcribing an interview. Increasingly annoyed by my own nervy failure to ask a simple question.”

5.       Ben Aaronovitch

@Ben_Aaronovitch

Ben wrote the amazing Remembrance of the Daleks, but you’ll probably know his books better as best-sellers in WHSmith and Waterstones: Rivers of London; Moon over Soho and the upcoming Whispers Underground.

Typical tweet:

“The #halifax – screwing our customers because we can!”

6.       Gareth Roberts

@OldRoberts953

Screenwriter whose Doctor Who credits include: The Shakespeare Code; The Unicorn and the Wasp and The Lodger. He’s also written the novel, Shada, based on the work of Douglas Adams – and is getting rave reviews from everyone! He comments on TV a lot.

Typical tweet:

“Thank you midnight downloaders of #Shada. No idea who Kindle author Gareth Adams Douglas Roberts is. Will ask Queen Amazonia if she knows.”

7.       James Goss

@gossjam

A truly fantastic author, James wrote the fantastic Dead of Winter, a really creepy and shocking novel that’s one of my favourites – plus it’s got all 5-star reviews on Amazon!

Typical tweet:

“The woman next to me is colouring in her cv with crayons. Ten years ago I would have sneered. Now I want to applaud.”

8.       David Wolstencroft

@woollensocks

A true expert in the TV industry, David created the BAFTA award-winning Spooks, which ran for ten fantastic series. Surely that’s all you need to know?!

Typical tweet:

“I get it. All writing is re-writing. But re-writing, that’s also actual writing. So really what you’re saying is, “all writing is writing.””

9.       Mark Gatiss

@Markgatiss

Mark Gatiss is a man of all trades. But he’s best-known for writing Doctor Who, and co-creating Sherlock (with Steven Moffat – and Arthur Conan Doyle!) Aside from that, he’s a great actor and has a passion for horror.

Typical tweet:

“Charmingly fitting that, on such a sunny weekend, hundreds of Doctor Who fans will be inside with the curtains drawn.”

10.   Andrew Smith

@Andrew_Smith_DW

Smith was a Doctor Who fan, and sent a script in. Nowadays, it would never happen – but that was the Eighties, and his story was shot, and became a classic: Full Circle. He disappeared from the industry, becoming a policeman, but has since returned, triumphantly!

Typical tweet:

“My wife: “Which one’s the Project Manager?” Me: “The only one who didn’t speak.” #apprentice”

So that’s it for now. And you can even follow me, if you get the urge!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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Price of 1st Class Stamp to increase to 60p: will this signal the death of the letter?

The price of a 1st class stamp is to increase 14p to 60p from 30th April, while the 2nd class stamp will also rise to 50p. The incline is the result of regulatory board, Ofcom, loosening the reins on price controls.

1st class stamps are currently 46p while the 2nd is 36p, as businesses in particular will know. The cost of posting large letters will increase from 75p to 90p for first class and 58p to 69p for second class. It marks the biggest percentage annual increase since 1975.

Anyone who hates the phrase, ‘in the current economic climate,’ look away now; Moya Greene, the Royal Mail’s chief executive, said:

“We know how hard it is for households and businesses when our economy is as tough as it is now. No-one likes to raise prices in the current economic climate but, regretfully, we have no option. Royal Mail provides one of the highest-quality postal services in Europe for amongst the lowest prices for both consumers and business. That service is under threat from declining volume, e-substitution and ever-increasing competition.”

…Which seems to be a great reason to lower the price of stamps, encouraging people to send a traditional letter once again!

While I use email all the time, I’ll always have a place in my heart for good ol’ letters. I love the feeling you get when one lands on your doorstep, and it just can’t be simulated when looking at your inbox.

Cracking stamps, Gromit!

Businesses are starting to use their emails and tablets to send and receive invoices/ statements already, while the phenomenon of ecards provides a steady undercurrent for those dissatisfied with the postal service. And who needs traditional cards when you can send your ‘love’ over Facebook, which obviously shows such thought, effort, time and consideration? (It was rhetorical, okay?!)

Money-saving expert, Martin Lewis, said on Twitter:

“Huge stamp price hike. 1st class from 46p to 60p – 2nd from 36p to 50p on 30 April. Stock up now, if they say class not cost they stay valid.”

He has also heard from many who are planning to stop sending Christmas cards! It’s utter madness.

1st class stamp: 60p. A 2nd class stamp: 50p. A letter that really shows you care: Priceless. (For everything else there’s Mastercard…)

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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How to make your blog enjoyable

Bloggers know how important search engine optimisation (SEO) is, and we’re always concerned about our stats. Nobody’s blaming you –seeing that three more people have visited your post on the 400 types of cigarette ash is enough to give anyone a giddy thrill – but there’s one thing more important than hits: your readers’ enjoyment.

The great thing is: hits and enjoyment go hand-in-hand. If your audience is engaged, they will come back. They might even recommend you to mates, tweet you or put you on their own blogroll.

As Homer Simpson once said, all he cares about is “M – E; My Enjoyment.”

Here’s what you can do to make your blog the best it can be.

What are you on about?

Tell us what you’re talking about, as fast as you can.

Readers want to know what, when, where, why and how. It’s what journalists do (supposedly) when writing news stories, but that directness can be applied to many forms of writing. Web copy is quickly skimmed over – with some claiming only 50% is read – so make it count.

Images et al.

Break your text up using as many mediums as you like. Images, videos, links, audios, semaphore: split your piece up to make it more aesthetically appealing. If you’re not happy using video or audio, that’s fair enough. But use images. Please. Use. Images.

A blog without pictures is a desolate landscape; one only the brave will tread.

Be the one-stop shop. Provide everything for the reader to digest in a clear, concise way and they won’t need to search around for further information.

What can you add?

There’s nothing wrong with staying topical, and reporting the news, but if you can add something to it, that’s even better. It doesn’t have to be much; just a brief opinion, or opening up a debate. Encourage comments, and pose rhetorical questions.

Entertain and inform your reader. Think about what he/she can take from your post.

Let your voice be heard

Consistency is great. Readers will come back if they know what to expect. Throwing a curveball is all well and good, but keep your distinct voice. Let people know who you are, what you believe in and be proud of it.

Humour

I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.

You don’t have to cause a riot, and you don’t have to shoehorn in Only Fools and Horses jokes. But having wit laced through your blog can really help you engage with your audience. You may know someone with no sense of humour, but they’re not typical – and I’m pretty sure they have a quick giggle to themselves when someone walks into a door.

Confidence

You know what you’re talking about. So don’t say stuff like ‘I suppose’ unless it’s for a particular purpose. Walk with your head held high, and people will trust you’re an authority.

A wise man once said that experts are just people who know a centimetre more about something than you. So become an expert.

Grammar and punctuation

Grammar and punctuation is important. Get something wrong and it’ll undermine that confidence I just talked about. Because if you use the wrong variation of ‘there’/’their’… what else are you wrong about?

Length

Don’t rattle on and on and on. Get to the point; say what you want to say, and get out as soon as possible.

Nobody has a big attention span on the interweb, and that’s the reason why so many posts are short (excluding this one).

There’s a link…

You might notice that nearly all of the above is just good journalism. And that’s the key to being a great blogger; be a great writer.

Sure, some blogs are terribly written – with bad grammar, punctuation and voice – but they know what they’re doing: delivering what their readers want. And surely that’s the true sign of a good writer?

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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