Cavan Scott – Licence to Write

I really enjoyed speaking to Cavan Scott on this week’s episode of the Bestseller Experiment. He writes on licence – that is, he writes for some of the biggest franchises and series in the world, including Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek. Listening to how he worked his way up from sending pitches to Big Finish Audio to becoming an influential writer of these beloved universes, and now writing his own fiction, was inspirational stuff. And moreso, now I’ve just learned that Cavan is bringing back Jaxxon the Rabbit, a cocky gunslinger who featured in one of the first ever Star Wars spinoff stories in the weekly comic.

It’s a fun episode, and you can listen to it here.

My co-presenter this week was the wonderful Jenn McMenemy, whose own podcast The Ancient History Fangirl, has just launched its second episode and it’s a blast. Check it out here.

In other news, I hit 60% funded on The End of Magic this week! A huge thanks to everyone who has supported the book so far. As a reward (punishment) here’s me reading from the book with another terrible “comedy” accent…

If you haven’t pledged yet, then please visit here and hit the big blue ‘pledge’ button: https://unbound.com/books/end-of-magic/

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My plans for 2018, and your favourite episode of the Bestseller Experiment revealed…

Okay, maybe the answer to the latter is obvious as it’s the one episode that we go on about more than any other, but I think you’ll enjoy the countdown of our top five as it contains some of my favourite moments. Have a listen here.

And there’s a little mini episode introduced by our editor Dave (who has a great trailer voice!), where you can hear clips from the Deep Dive extras for Patreon supporters. Me and Mr. D talk about New Year’s Resolutions, which I don’t really do, but last year I did make a list in my diary of the things I wanted to achieve with my writing in 2017. They were…

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BOOM! Managed to get a tick on all of those… There might be something in this list making stuff after all…? The smudge is a top secret film project that I’m working on with Jon Wright, and there’s definitely been some action on that front, though the problem with film and TV is that so much of it is out of your hands (especially if you’re the writer) that you can make all the lists you want, it ultimately comes down to all sorts of ducks and stars aligning, so I find it’s less stressful to just go with the flow.

So what do I want from 2018? Here’s the current wish list…

  • Get my fantasy novel The End Of Magic published (more on that soon!)
  • Self-publish at least one of my Woodville novellas
  • Get some TV assignment work
  • Get one my spec scripts optioned/off the ground

How hard can it be?

What are your writing plans for 2018? Whatever they are, I’d love to hear about them. Sharing the pain is half the fun of being a writer. Until next time, keep writing!

 

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If you liked that episode and want some more, we’ve started having post-podcast deep dive discussions for our Patreon supporters. You can support us and get the extra content here.

And if you’re looking for something new to read in 2018, then grab a copy of our novel Back to Reality on Kindle now!

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A movie pilgrimage – “I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne…”

What sort of middle-aged movie dad would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity to drag the family to some remote location just because it was once featured in a film?

We’re currently holidaying with Claire’s parents in Spain and yesterday we undertook an epic pilgrimage (well, three hour drive) down to Almeria, location for so many incredible movies, not least Lawrence of Arabia, Once Upon A Time In The West, Conan The Barbarian and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade.

Our primary destination for the day was Oasys – one of a handful of western theme parks in the area trading on their movie history, though this one got extra Brownie points from the kids as it was a location for the Doctor Who episode A Town Called Mercy. It was originally built for For A Few Dollars More and then The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, and then the extras bought it and set it up as a theme park.

The town itself is impressive, especially if you’re a Spaghetti Western nerd like me. You can explore many of the buildings, clamber up the steps onto the landings and generally stride across the middle of town feeling like Clint Eastwood (it also helps that they play Ennio Morricone’s greatest hits through a tannoy the whole time).

Mini Hollywood, Ameria
Mini Hollywood, Ameria

There are also museums housed in a couple of the buildings. First up was a museum of cinema, which was little more than a collection of old projectors and Spanish Western posters. My favourite was the one for Y Ahora Le Llaman Aleluya (aka Deep West), in which the hero uses a machine gun disguised as a sewing machine…

Double stitch THAT, y'bastard!
Double stitch THAT, y’bastard!

The other museum was dedicated to coaches, starting with horse-drawn buggies, and fire trucks and, er, a BMW 3 series from the 80s. That made me feel old, and I questioned its value in a museum, as you could probably get one on eBay for under a grand. There was no real attempt at curation in these museums, but who cares when you have such wonders to entertain you?

At noon we joined the crowds for the first Western show of the day. I was looking forward to this as the leaflet promised that it would be performed “by actors” no less. Just in case anyone was expecting the real Hole in the Wall Gang to show up and start blowing people’s heads off. Over the distorted tannoy a recorded voice explained that “Mffrm meefle frrp villainous brothers grlgle flan frrop arrested furgle jail.” Oh, good to get all the exposition out the way, eh?

So a man was dragged to jail, his brother came to the rescue, a Sheriff fell off a balcony onto a poorly-disguised crash mat, another fella was dragged through the dirt by a horse, there was lots of shooting, and this guy…

This is still better than pretending to be a tree on the Edinburgh Fringe.
This is still better than pretending to be a tree on the Edinburgh Fringe.

… died first and spent the remainder of the show face-down in the dirt in the blistering heat. I guess he does this three times a day, six days a week. Now THAT’s acting – take that RSC!

Your basic, run-of-the-mill Mexican stand-off.
Just waiting for my Spanish Equity membership and then I can join in too!

My horse allergy started to kick in (the only thing stopping me from becoming a massive Western movie star) and so we left the Western town and explored the zoo at Oasys, an expansive collection of enclosures featuring some fairly miserable-looking animals. There were no keepers to be seen and no evidence of the kind of zoological research undertaken in UK zoos. But if you’re a fan of bored animals skulking in tiny slivers of shade to stay out of the relentless glare of the sun, then this is the place for you!

We ended the park experience by the family pool, and the kids had great fun. There are a couple of slides and a bacteria-filled jacuzzi with a sign declaring in many languages that it was strictly for adults only (it was packed with kids).

But it was in the gift shop where I made an important discovery. We knew that one of my favourite scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was shot near here, but looking it up online could only give us a vague destination. However, the gift shop had a Spanish-language book that had more detail and, more importantly, gave us the name of the beach – Playa de Monsul. We punched it into the sat-nav and hit the road.

It took about an hour to get there and the kids were getting tired. ‘Hang on,’ George said, ‘we’ve come all this way just to see a rock?’

But Emily got it, ‘I love my geeky daddy,’ she said.

The road ran out of tarmac and the sat-nav was trying to send us into neighbouring fields, but we followed the signs along 5 km of incredibly rocky road. I spent much of that drive quietly muttering ‘Don’t get a flat,’ over and over as the car rocked perilously from side to side (there is also a bus service available, but at this time we still didn’t know if we were in the right place).

We eventually came to a row of parked cars. Even now, as the sun was low in the sky, the place was busy. It’s a beautiful beach. Isolated, with gentle waves and perfect for families.

And there was the rock. We took a few photos, gazed upon it in admiration and I quoted from the film in my best Sean Connery.

"Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky..."
“Let my armies be the rocks and the trees and the birds in the sky…”

That wasn’t enough for George, though. The rock he’d bemoaned en-route now presented him with a challenge. He climbed all the way to the top. When he returned he reported that from up there he could see “six boobies and two couples making out.”

What did we get from that extra few hours out of our day? I’m not sure. Pilgrimages are weird things. Religious folk will talk about how they feel kindred spirits in a place, I know football fans who will go out of their way to visit a stadium if they’re in a particular city, and I love to just be where films have been made. Maybe it’s that thing of wanting to step through the screen and be part of that world – surely the sign of a successful movie? – or maybe it’s knowing that every time we watch the film from now on, we can all yell “We’ve been there!” Who knows? All I know is, we went all that way and I forgot to pack a bloody umbrella…

Postscript:

After a day of western-themed activities, it was sad to come home and find that Elmore Leonard, author of many fine Westerns, had passed away. Most writers will know his ten rules for writers. If you don’t, here they are, and heed every word, they are wise and sublime.

ELMORE LEONARD’S RULES FOR WRITING

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
  4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
  5. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.