The Title of the next Witches of Woodville novel is…

A very Happy New Year to you all! And I begin 2023 with some splendid news. I’ve delivered the fourth Witches of Woodville book to his agent. It will be published on 14th September 2023, and therefore someone at the publisher has pushed the big red “Pre-Order” button (every publisher has one, and it’s usually locked away in the basement) and thusly it is now available to, well, pre-order at many of your favourite retailers (some take longer than others to pull their finger out when it comes to pre-orders… Yes, we’re looking at you, Audible).

So without any further ado, I can exclusively reveal the title and blurb for the next Witches of Woodville book is…

(insert drumroll here)
 

THE HOLLY KING

The Holly King is coming, and you’re on his list . . . 
 
You are cordially invited to the FEAST OF FOOLS.
A YULETIDE celebration in the village of WOODVILLE.

Your host is THE HOLLY KING, benevolent demigod and newly-restored RULER of the woodland realm.
Confront your fears and banish darkness at our Saturnalian Revels, with food and drink aplenty for all you lusty guts. Join your neighbours, Dead-Eyed Fairies and a Woodwose, all overseen for one night only by the Lord of Misrule.

STRICTLY NO WITCHES ALLOWED.

Have you been Naughty or Nice?
RSVP, regardless.
 

As Christmas looms, the villagers come under the spell of the Holly King, a demigod bent on destroying Woodville. Faye, Bertie and the witches are determined to stop him, but first they must confront terrible truths that threaten to tear them apart.

Golly, that does sound thrilling, doesn’t it! The Holly King will be available in paperback, eBook and audiobook on 14th September 2023, and you will find all the current live pre-order links here: https://witchesofwoodville.com/#thehollyking

Christian Cameron on the Bestseller Experiment

A rare thing these days: an in-person interview for the podcast! I got to meet the delightful Christian Cameron in the bowels of Hachette’s big publishing castle near Blackfriars Bridge. We discuss worldbuilding, research, and learning to write without doubting yourself (something I’m not sure I’ll ever get the hang of). Also, before the interview, Me and Mr D discuss AI and how it might impact authors over the coming years…

I Wrote Every Day in 2022… Was it Worth It?

We bang on about our 200 Words a Day Challenge on the Bestseller Experiment podcast constantly (click here to find out more), so it only seemed fair that I should give it a go. It also occurred to me that the sheer number of projects I had lined up for 2022 might benefit from me writing every day, so why the hell not.

I was also inspired by one of our listeners, Mark Hood, who (at the time of writing) has written every day for over 1100 days. Check out his daily word counter here.

How to keep track of these words? I downloaded a simple to use spreadsheet from MoonBunny Creative’s Kofi page. In fact, I’ve just got my 2023 spreadsheet from Moonbunny here. I saved it on my desktop and popped the words in at the end of every session.

Here are the numbers…

A total of 388,854 words in 2022.

That’s 32,405 per month. A little over a thousand words a day. I rarely wrote more than 3,000 words a day, and in December there were a few days where it was a scrabble to get to the 200 minimum (mostly due to travel/family commitments).

Those 2599 minutes per month translate into about 43 hours a month spent writing… Which, considering I’m supposed to be a full time writer, doesn’t feel like a lot. But I’m also taking meetings, travelling to conventions, co-running/presenting a podcast, interviewing authors/guests, editing books and scripts for clients, and doing housework (it’s often the only exercise I get during the day!).

I also only average 13 words per minute, so I’m not particularly fast.

But… I wrote every day and, as you can see, it all adds up. I usually start at 7:30am on my main project and work for two hours. I start writing by hand in a notebook (each project has a specific notebook), usually typing it up the next day and, in the process, redrafting it. Later in the day, I might work on a secondary project, or edit a client’s book etc.

May was my most productive month as I was in the thick of the drafting of Woodville #4 (exciting title to be revealed soon!). January was my least productive month, at least in terms of words, as I was in the thick of drafting TV scripts: lots of story, though not as many words as a novel.

What Was I Writing?

Here are the projects I worked on in 2022. Most of these have vague titles/descriptions because they’re either works in progress, or they simply haven’t been picked up or announced yet.

  • YA TV Science Fiction series: a pilot episode, a series episode, and pitch document.
  • Caesar on Watling Street.
  • Interstellar Mega Blaster (a middle grade book that never worked… I had another stab at it earlier this year… and it still doesn’t work).
  • The Ghost of Ivy Barn (final edits prior to publication earlier this year).
  • Woodville novel #4 (main first draft and by far the biggest project I worked on this year).
  • An historical romance screenplay that I’m working on with another writer.
  • The Wish Demon comic book.
  • New Fantasy Novella (hoping to self-publish this next year).
  • Cosy Crime Mystery that I’m co-writing with my wife Claire.
  • A Disco-themed RomCom screenplay that I’m working on with another writer and is in development with a production company.

What’s Not Included?

I only counted words that contributed towards creative projects, so I didn’t include my diary entries, emails, newsletters, blogs (like this one), or any of the notes or reports I’ve made while editing books/scripts for clients. I’m also a story consultant on a TV thing, which involved reading scripts and giving feedback, but while that was sort-of creative, it’s not my show, so I didn’t count them.

Was it Worth it?

I remember in those early episodes of the podcast where almost every author we spoke to said they wrote every day, and we got very excited thinking we were onto something… Until we got to Sarah Pinborough who said in her own brilliant way that she thought the whole “write every day” ethos was “bollocks” (listen to the full episode here, it’s one of my favourites). And she’s right in a way… If we’ve learned anything in over six years of the podcast it’s that every writer finds their own way of doing things. There are no rules, only principles.

That said, if you’re just starting out then one of the most important things you can do is develop a regular writing habit. And all you need to do is write 200 words a day. You can do that in 20-30 minutes tops. We ask people to try it for a week, and see if they get hooked (and they very often do, and also end up writing a lot more than 200 words a day). It’s less intense than NanoWriMo, and if you follow the #200WordsADay hashtag on Twitter you’ll find me and a community of writers sharing our word count every day. We’re all in it together. Sign up for free to the challenge here, and download Moonbunny’s tracker here.

Was it worth it? Definitely. I got a lot done this year, and I never lost any momentum and it never felt like a burden. Will I do it again? I think I probably will… I might give myself more time off over Christmas next year, but who knows? The thing is, I love writing. It’s a privilege to do it full time, and getting those words in every morning is my happy place. When I’m writing, nothing else worries me and I can’t wait to get back there again. Maybe I’m just weird? Or I’m a writer? Or a combination of the two?

Happy New Year to you all and good luck with your writing in 2023!

One Month until UNWELCOME hits UK cinemas…

Just one month until you can see this handsome devil in action in UK cinemas…

Just to be clear… this is before I went into hair and make up…

This pic appeared in the new issue of Empire magazine and it’s the first clear look at the malevolent redcaps who cause so much chaos in the story. The original designs for the redcaps came from the wonderful concept artist Paul Catling, and they were brought to life by the genius of Shaune Harrison’s prosthetics, Paddy Eason’s VFX, and second unit director (and redcap wrangler) Rick Warden.

This is how this redcap is described in the original script…

A BIG NOSED REDCAP - two foot tall and standing on skinny legs with an oversized, misshapen head.
Its eyes are milky-white and skin is like burned bacon. Tufts of hair sprout from odd places and its jaw juts out revealing razor sharp rows of teeth. It wears a tanned skin cloak stained dark red and a dagger on a belt.

Film is a collaborative medium, so there are plenty of others who helped bring this critter to life. Do check out their names on IMDb here. It never fails to amaze me just how much work goes into making movies, and the best way to see their incredible work is on a big screen so I really hope you can make it to the movies on January 27th! (I think we’re out in the US in March… not sure about the rest of the world yet, but I’ll bang the drum here when I know more).

There’s more info on the Warner Bros UK website, and here’s the trailer…

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EPISODE OF THE BESTSELLER EXPERIMENT!

We don our terrible Christmas sweaters and hats to celebrate the festive season and look forward to 2023. I test Mr D with a super-duper mega quiz, we discover that Americans don’t have Christmas crackers, we reveal where Santa comes from, tell terrible jokes, and we discuss taking stock and setting goals for 2023… and much more! Available on all the usual podcast providers or you can watch it on Youtube on the link below for the full Technicolor Christmas experience…

Margaret Weis on the Bestseller Experiment

Every now and then on the podcast we ask our listeners who they would love have on as a guest, and Margaret Weis was one of those names, so I was delighted when she took the time to speak to me about her extraordinary career. We dispelled a few myths about the origins of Dragonlance, we talked about her collaboration with Tract Hickman, and how she continues to be inspired by the likes of Dickens and Austen. She also answers our listener question

Please note: My interview with Margaret took place on the phone, so our conversation on the Youtube version of this episode is audio only.

Oh and stay right to the end for a few outtakes from me and Mr D (it had been a long week)…

I should also add that the Bestseller Academy is about to open its doors again. Pop along to https://academy.bestsellerexperiment.com to discover more, or take a moment to listen to some of the writers who have achieved their writing goals with the academy here…

Elizabeth Noble on the Bestseller Experiment

I had a great time chatting to Elizabeth Noble on this week’s podcast and she talks about writing novels with huge casts and big families and lots of moving parts etc. And before that, me and Mr D talk about the recent ALCS report that showed that UK’s authors earn only an average of £7,000 a year from their writing, and a bit in Private Eye that noted that so many of our big brand male authors (and their characters) are all getting quite long in the tooth… so where are the new big brands coming from?

My Favourite TV of 2022

As someone who is still catching up on The Sopranos, I struggle to keep up with all the good telly out there. So this is by no means a definitive best of 2022 (still haven’t seen The English, SAS Rogue Heroes, or Normal People). This is merely my favourite shows from what I managed to actually see in 2022. And why not start with the biggest surprise of all…

ANDOR

A prequel to a prequel that has no right to be half as good as it is. And it’s restored my faith in the Star Wars universe. All props to Tony Gilroy who has taken some complex ideas about sacrifice, rebellion and loyalty and delivered a slow burn that pays off in spades. If you want to hear me waffle on about how brilliant this is for over two hours then check out this episode of the Authorized Podcast. Oh, and an honourable mention for Obi-Wan Kenobi. I know a lot of people didn’t like it, but I did for no other reason than Ewan McGregor finally got a chance to play that character with a decent script that had some depth!

DON’T HUG ME I’M SCARED

Did you ever see a show that was so strange and twisted that you feel like it was made specifically for you? DON’T HUG ME I’M SCARED is that show. Surreal and darkly funny this is NOT a children’s show… despite looking remarkably like a lot of the warped kids’ shows I grew up on.

FOR ALL MANKIND

A simple concept: what if the Russians were first on the moon? How would that change the space race and history? Brilliantly executed, this is terrific alt history. It gets a little soapy at times, but always pulls it back. I gobbled up three seasons this year. Can’t wait for season 4.

SEVERANCE

A man called Mark has a baffling office job that’s so soul destroying he agrees to a process that separates his non-work and work memories. Hmm… what was it about this that so resonated with me? And look at that cast: Adam Scott, Christopher Walken, John Turturro and Patricia Arquette firing in all cylinders.

OUTLAWS

And speaking of Christopher Walken… I don’t know how Stephen Merchant convinced him to do two seasons of this brilliantly funny show about a bunch of community service misfits turned drug dealers, but I’m glad he did. There are a few scenes where you can see the extras beaming because they’re in a scene with The King of New York!

BETTER CALL SAUL

So… so good. Such an emotional rollercoaster. So many shocks and surprises. And what a great ending. And the fact that Rhea Seehorn hasn’t won every acting award going should be a matter for the courts. She was robbed.

SLOW HORSES

Gary Oldman has said that he could play Jackson Lamb for the rest of his career, and I kind of hope he does. He’s having so much fun and the rest of the cast playing MI5’s rejects at Slough House are having a ball. I haven’t seen season two (yet), but I plan to savour it all very soon.

WELCOME TO WREXHAM

I rarely give two hoots about football, but as a study of a community that has its identity tied up in failing team this is binge-worthy stuff. Toss in to that the disruptive influence of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McIlhenney who buy the team in an effort to restore it to its former glories and I’m suddenly on the edge of my seat with every corner kick. This will give Ted Lasso a run for its money when it comes to heartwarming footie shows.

GHOSTS

This just gets better and better and is still full of surprises while pushing the boundaries of family-friendly telly, ‘He got sucked off!’ There hasn’t been such a brilliant writing/acting/comedy combo this good since Python.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS…

PAM & TOMMY

Okay, this might have outstayed its welcome a little bit, but it has a talking penis and you can’t ask for more than that, surely?

STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS & LOWER DECKS

After the too-serious mumblecore of Discovery, Star Trek decided to be fun again!

SHE HULK and MOON KNIGHT were fun if a bit forgettable.

RINGS OF POWER and HOUSE OF THE DRAGON looked like the real thing, and almost felt like the real thing, but they lacked the little something extra that Tolkien and Martin brought to their worlds. I’ll probably come back for more, though.

ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING was fun if confusing.

And I enjoyed a couple of horror anthologies on Netflix: CABINET OF CURIOSITIES and THE HOUSE. A little hit and miss as with any anthology, but these are always great testing grounds for writers and directors and I hope there are more.

And I hope to see more of WE ARE LADYPARTS…

My Favourite Movies of 2022

Now that you’ve been dazzled by my favourite ‘bangin’ choons’ of 2022, here are my favourite movies of the year. It’s been a weird year for cinema. The big hitters are drawing in the punters, but those smaller movies are struggling to find an audience. It would be a crying shame if the interesting stuff was all regulated to the streamers. Not to denigrate streaming, but there’s nothing like sitting in the dark with complete strangers and immersing yourself in a story.

These are in no particular order, although I do have one favourite above all others and that is…

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

I’ve seen this twice now and it’s even better the second time around. Just breathtaking on every level. It’s inventive, constantly surprising, very funny, heartbreaking and had amazing action sequences. Directed by The Daniels (friends Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) who previously made the surreal Swiss Army Man (featuring Daniel Radcliffe as a farting corpse… yes, really) this gives me hope for cinema in a very difficult year. Not only did something this strange and personal manage to get made, it also took over $100m at the box office worldwide. Let these guys make whatever the hell they want in future!

THE NORTHMAN

I’ve seen this get a lot of flack online, but I caught this in the cinema when it first came out and was completely swept away by it. It ticks so many boxes for me: Vikings, battles, blood, witches, mythology, revenge and, er, naked men battling near lava… Well, yes, the ending is a bit Revenge of the Sith, but Alexander Skarsgård is utterly compelling, Anya Taylor-Joy is always amazing, and Robert Eggers is becoming one of my favourite directors.

BRIAN AND CHARLES

I’m so glad I got to see this in a cinema with a crowd. Simply the sweetest film of the year. Brian is an inventor who creates a robot from junk lying about his home. The robot learns English from a dictionary and names himself Charles Petrescu. What follows is an adorable story about friendship, love and growing up, and flying the nest.

CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY

Based on the book by Karen Cushman and directed by Lena Dunham this is a ton of fun. When her family’s finances are revealed to be in a terrible state, young Lady Catherine must be married off to restore their fortune. It’s very funny and Bella Ramsey is superb in the lead. I particularly related to her father played by Andrew Scott who kept blowing the family’s money on useless crap like dead tigers. This has a great soundtrack too with medieval takes on contemporary hits with Misty Miller’s take on Elastica’s Connection being a favourite for me.

BELFAST

Branagh’s most personal film and my favourite of his. Young Jude Hill as Buddy is a joy as he tries to make sense of the madness around him. A child’s point of view, memory and history mingle to make something heightened and heartbreaking,

ELVIS

A classic case of ‘Print the legend’. I’ve seen some complain about the historical accuracy of this, but Baz was never going to make a gritty biopic, was he? This could have been a complete disaster, but it’s all held together by Austin Butler who does the impossible and makes you believe that Elvis is in the building. Quite enjoyed Tom Hanks as Elmer Fudd, too…

GLASS ONION

Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig are clearly having the time of their lives making these movies, but the secret weapon in this one is Janelle Monáe. Not only is she a brilliant singer songwriter and science fiction author, but as an actor she takes on a role here that’s really tricky (I can’t say more for spoiler reasons) and knocks it out of the park. We were lucky to see this in its one week in cinemas and I’m so glad we did. These films are best seen in the company of others.

FRESH

The best flesh-eating movie of the year (ignore all the hype around Bones and All. I saw that at Sitges and wasn’t impressed). Sebastian Stan is completely charming (until he isn’t), and you completely understand why Daisy Edgar-Jones falls for him (until she doesn’t). This is on Disney+ in the UK and you should definitely watch it between meals…

HONOURABLE MENTIONS…

I saw BOWIE — MOONAGE DAYDREAM at the BFI IMAX in London and it pretty much blew my mind. I’d like to see it on a smaller screen to see if it holds up, especially as a lot of the 80s and 90s footage was shot on crappy video and didn’t look good on IMAX.

I liked Jordan Peele’s NOPE, but for me it’s the least of his movies so far. I was hooked, but it didn’t quite stick the landing for me. But I always love anyone who reaches for something even if they don’t get it (see also: my entire writing career).

SEE HOW THEY RUN was a good laugh and I hope we get to see more adventures with Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan’s odd couple coppers.

PREY was a great surprise: a Predator movie as good as the first one (there, I said it)!

BLACK PHONE was an excellent adaptation of Joe Hill’s short story. Back to basics horror for Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill.

TOP GUN MAVERICK was basically the trench run from Star Wars stretched out to feature length. I was never a big fan of the original, but this was terrific fun and the kind of blockbuster that Hollywood does better than anyone. Best seen on the biggest screen you can find.

NIGHTMARE ALLEY is technically a 2021 movie but it was (I think) the first film I saw in 2022. I’ll just say it: Guillermo del Toro is a bloody genius and I’m so glad he’s now in a position to make a film so visually stunning and shocking. As remakes go it’s a belter. Can’t wait for his Pinocchio.

MEN started well, and Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear are always great, but it unravelled a little at the end. I went in with big expectations, so it’s one I want to come back to and see how it holds up.

My Favourite Music of 2022

Yup, it’s that time of the year when bloggers litter the internet with ‘Best of’ lists. I can only offer my favourites, however, and we’ll start with music because my lovely Apple Music app handily keeps track of what I listen to the most throughout the year. You can find the whole playlist here, and here’s the top ten with videos…

  1. HUMAN MUSIC. RICK AND MORTY. Okay, this might need some explaining. I added this to my “New Stuff” playlist as a joke and now it’s become a fixture. I’m with Jerry. “I like it.”

2. THE HEART THAT NEVER WAITS. JOE BONAMASSA. Fed up with Eric Clapton being old, reactionary and racist? Choose Joe Bonamassa instead. An incredible singer, songwriter and guitarist (arguably better than Clapton) and this is great to play along with, too…

3. TALK OVER TOWN. KATY J PEARSON. Why yes, I am that cliche of a middle-aged man who gets his music recommendations from watching Jools Holland… What else am I supposed to do? They killed Top of the Pops! This track, and Katy’s album Sound of the Morning, is so propulsive and toe-tapping. She also ends the album with a great cover of Willow’s Song from The Wicker Man.

4. ABOUT DAMN TIME. LIZZO. This is super catchy and I defy anyone not to at least bop their head to this one. Another favourite this year has been Rumors, her collaboration with Cardi B which has a video like an X-rated version of Disney’s Hercules.

5. CHARMED LIFE. THE DIVINE COMEDY. At the risk of sounding like a privileged old white bloke (which I am) this could be my theme tune. I’ve had it very good (so far).

6. LESLEY DUNCAN. LOVE SONG. I heard this in the Alex Garland movie MEN and I can’t believe I’d never heard it before. Simply beautiful…

7. HEY HEY RISE UP (feat. Andriy Khlyvnyuk of Boombox). So Pink Floyd had a number one single this year! David Gilmour took Andriy Khlyvnyuk’s heartfelt a cappella version of an old Ukrainian anthem and built a song around it. Featuring Nitin Sawhney on keyboards, I love the video’s ‘let’s do the show right here’ vibe.

8. BLACK HOLE SUN. SOUNDGARDEN. An oldie but goodie that I was reminded of it when it popped up in the end credits of an episode of For All Mankind. Chris Cornell’s voice and guitar drives this to the moon and back.

9 THE EAGLE & THE DOVE. JESSIE BUCKLEY AND BERNARD BUTLER. Now here’s a combo I never knew I needed. The genius of Butler with Buckley’s voice which soars like, well, an eagle (or a dove… take your pick). And yes this is another Jools Holland clip, but Buckley’s live voice is something else…

10 HOW DOES IT FEEL. SLADE. Another golden oldie. Just to prove that Slade are for life and not just for Christmas. I don’t recall how this got on my playlist, but once it was there I couldn’t but help play it over and over…

11. CLEOPATRA. NOVA TWINS. Okay, I lied. This is a top 11 because I had to include these two. The Nova Twins are like the bastard daughters of Muse who usurp the throne and stick their heads in spikes. Brilliant stuff.

Honourable mentions…

I’m amazed there’s no Wet Leg on here, though Ur Mum is number 12 on my list…

Same goes for Self Esteem. She should definitely be on the list as I haven’t stopped playing her new album since I saw her on… go on, guess…

Coming soon. More pointless lists of my favourite films, TV shows and books of 2022…