Launch day diary – Back to Reality

Yesterday, we finally launched our book Back to Reality (I may have mentioned it once or twice on social media), and it was an incredible day. Here’s what I wrote in my diary last night…

 

Monday 16th October

Publication day! I’m completely knackered, so here’s a quick summary…

My first solo Youtube Live starts well, but soon descends into confusion as it becomes apparent that there was some kind of problem with the link and a bunch of people were on the wrong Youtube page.

I’m stuck in a glass cubicle at work and I’m sweating, but the sales and reviews are coming in. The reviews are completely heartwarming.

We try and hook up with Mike Morris, but he’s in Dubai and we can’t connect so we have to drop his slot. Not great – nothing techie is working!

Second session with Desvaux is better and by now we’re number one in popular music on Amazon.com, nudging aside Phil Collins and Carly Simon!

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I’m humming by now, so stroll up to the Next near St Paul’s and buy some fresh t-shirts. It’s a warm, close day and the sky is amber and the sun is a blood orange – side effects of hurricane Ophelia, currently battering Ireland and Northern Ireland.

I freshen-up and change shirts in the toilet at work. We were hoping to speak to Joanna Harris, but the publicist whisks her away. Boo!

The evening Youtube session is the best one. We’re getting the hang of it now, and the enthusiasm from the listeners is wonderful and sustains us.

On the train home, and we’re #1 in three categories on Amazon.com, including Fantasy Humor… above Good Omens and The Colour of Magic…

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That’s a pinch-me moment!

Desvaux tweets Gaiman, who retweets us and my notifications go crazy. Desvaux says we’ll faint. Gaiman wants to see the faints, so we film them… More RT fun.

 

We end the day by finally getting an orange ‘Bestseller’ flag on Amazon.com.

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Mission accomplished.

Now for sleep.

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One day to go!

What the what?? One day till publication?? In today’s episode Mr. D reads out our blurb (which had to be re-recorded at the last minute, as the blurb has gone through about 150 drafts this week) and I read an excerpt from the book in my best sexy-actor-voiceover-voice… It’s not that sexy. I have a weak ‘r’ which can wob the nawwative of its dwamatic tension.

Listening back, this episode is far too chilled for our penultimate episode… I think we were just knackered at this point. Click here to listen for yourself!

Till tomorrow…

Three days to go till publication…

On today’s daily podcast – one of many in the run-up to publication of our book BACK TO REALITY (coming on Monday 16th October!) – we talk about to harness the power of social media to promote your book. Which is a fun thing to do… if our internet is working. Mine has been choked all day, which made today’s Google hangout rehearsal a fun trial…

In this episode the mania from the previous episodes has dampened and we’re starting to sound exhausted… by the way, do listen to the very end of each of these. Our editor Dave puts fun little stings at the end… CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW

Five days to go!

In the third of our daily mini-episodes in the run-up to publication of Back to Reality (out on October 16th!) we look at Beta readers and reviews and how to cope with feedback.

You can definitely hear the mania beginning to set in with this episode. We recorded all of these on one night last week, and it was around the third episode that our banter became babble… but there’s some great stuff here. Our beta group on Facebook has been incredible: they have forensic attention to detail and they’re wonderfully supportive, which we really need as we careen towards our publication date (DID I MENTION THAT IT’S OUT ON OCTOBER 16TH???).

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW…

Six days to go till Back to Reality

In today’s mini-episode of the Bestseller Experiment podcast we discuss the dark art of getting other authors to give you quotes for their book. One way is to start a podcast and call in every favour you have to try and get authors on the show and then beg with them to read your book after a year or so… of course, that approach might not suit everybody, so we explore some other methods. But it pays to be bold! CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW… 

 

 

Meeting Your Mentor – My Writing Diary, Ten Years On, September 1st, 2006

Summer 2006 suddenly went very quiet on the writing diary front. Producer Dean Fisher was pitching my script Waiting For Eddie around town, and then everyone goes on holiday in August. These are always worrying times for a writer. The phone stops ringing, emails don’t ping in your inbox, and you begin to wonder if all the enthusiasm for your project has just evaporated… Then summer ended and it all started kicking off again. September 2006 began with a fortuitous meeting with someone who was to change the course of my writing career, film director Jon Wright

 

Friday, 1st September, 2006

I jumped on a train to London for the really important meeting of the week. Dean, Jon Wright and I headed off to a meeting with Film London (to pitch Waiting For Eddie for the first ever Microwave Scheme).

Jon and I hit it off immediately. Quite literally: we bumped heads as we both sat down. Jon had some notes on the script, which were excellent. He definitely gets the script and it’s hugely gratifying to hear someone enthuse about it who will hopefully be in a position to make it a reality.

The Film London meeting went really well. Both Maggie Ellis and Sol Gatti-Pascual were friendly and encouraging and I have to say that Dean, Jon and I certainly held our own (I was a bag of nerves). I got the feeling that Sol really wants to work with Jon, so this could definitely work in our favour. We’ll hear if we get through to the next stage on Tuesday, but both Jon and Dean said they wouldn’t be despondent if we didn’t get through as they’re confident we can raise the budget elsewhere.

So, yes, in the kind of meet-cute you could only find on the corniest romcom, Jon and I met by head-butting each other. To put it in some kind of context, he was the first proper film director that I had ever had a meeting with, and I started by giving him a Glasgow Kiss. For a second I seriously thought I had completely ruined any chance I ever had of working in film ever, but fortunately he laughed it off and we got down to business.

The real boost was getting his very insightful and thoughtful notes. Like I said, he really understood the tone of my warped ghost story and it became clear that we shared many sensibilities, which would definitely pay off in the future, as he would eventually become Obi-Wan to my… Jar Jar…? Stay tuned for more…

Ten Years On: My writing diary – Saturday 15th April 2006

I started keeping a diary ten years ago this month! It was partly to help me sleep at nights (I had a theory that putting the day’s events on paper would help… which it does… a bit) and partly to keep track of writing projects I’d submitted.

I mention two projects. A play called BAN THIS FILTH! which I had staged at my local theatre and thought I could adapt for radio, and a children’s book called MORRIS MINOR AND THE ABOMINABLE CHALET OF DOOM.

This was at an exciting but uncertain time for me. I had two agents – one for books, one for scripts – but was still struggling to figure out what kind of writer I was (something I’m still trying to work out, to be honest), hence the identity crisis.

There’s some light editing here, and some names have been changed or redacted to protect the innocent.

SATURDAY 15th APRIL, 2006

Two – count ’em – two! rejection letters in the post this morning. The first was for a pitch I sent to BBC radio for ‘Ban This Filth’. Fair enough. I only have the fuzziest memory of sending the pitch, so I’m not too fussed about that one (although… the shite they have on the radio sometimes…).

The second one was the real gutter. <A MAJOR PUBLISHER> said no to ‘Morris’. It was a pleasant enough rejection (‘We liked it… however…’ – I’m going to put those words on my bloody gravestone) but my agent is comparing me to Jeremy Strong (too young!) so anyone reading it is prepped for a completely different kind of book. Mind you, the rejecting editor did use words like ‘crazy’ and ‘zanier’ (is that even a word?), so I reckon I’ve had a lucky escape.

I’m not entirely sure my agent likes me, either… the rejection letter was forwarded with a blank compliment slip… No ‘Chin up… there’s plenty more fish in the sea!’ Nothing. It’s almost like an ‘I told you so’ from them. Someone needs to work on their people skills.

Ah, rejection. I like to think I cope with it a little better these days. For me, there are four stages to rejection: furious anger, blind denial, dismal depression, then a calm acceptance. I try to skip straight to the final stage if possible.

Needless to say, I’m no longer with that agent (stay tuned for the diary entry when they drop me!). And, despite my bitter accusatory tone, it’s not a fault of theirs that it wasn’t working. We were just wrong for each other. They had a fixed idea of what kind of writer I was, and I didn’t have the first clue. No wonder there was a clash. Finding your voice is one of the most important things for a writer. I clearly had some way to go…

Great podcasts for screenwriters…

I love me a podcast. On my daily commute, any long(ish) drive or walk, or when I’m doing the ironing or washing up, I’ll plug in and absorb news and information like Neo in the Matrix. Well, I like to think that’s how my mind works, though the reality is I need the same ideas reinforced again and again and again, and podcasts are a great way of doing that.

Many of the podcasts I listen to are writing- or film-related, and I thought I would share them with you now (and yes, I did something similar a couple of years ago, but these are updated and I have a handful of new additions)…

You can get all of these on iTunes or whatever podcast software you use for free, but it’s well worth having a look at their related blogs and Twitter feeds too.

Scriptnotes with John August and Craig Mazin:

 

@johnaugust

@clmazin

There’s never been a better time to get on board with this one, as the latest episode is a Spring Break clip show, essentially a greatest hits. Click here to listen.

What sets these guys apart from the Syd Fields and Robert McKees of this world, is they’re actually working as writers in the film industry, so they can talk with authority about how the industry works today. They cover everything from writing techniques, to agents, managers, lawyers, the WGA, writing software (don’t get Craig started on the vagaries of Final Draft!), and even typefaces and fonts (John August also develops apps). It’s been running for quite a few years now, and the most recent 20 episodes are free, and the backlist is only available via the premium feed, or you could buy a USB stick with all the episodes. It’s worth it: this is cheaper than any seminar or writers’ retreat and far more useful.

Scriptwriting in the UK with Danny Stack and Tim Clague:

@scriptwritingUK

Danny has one of the best UK scriptwriting blogs out there, and, in this monthly podcast, he and Tim Clague cover all aspects of writing for the screen: film, TV and games. And, most astonishingly, they actually went and made their own children’s film, WHO KILLED NELSON NUTMEG? which premiered at the London Film Festival. An incredible achievement, and an experience that has informed their podcast ever since.

This is invaluable for insights into the UK film and TV industry, and they’ve interviewed the likes of Tony Jordan, Chris ChibnallAndrew Ellard, and yours truly (if I sound like I’m at the bottom of a well, it’s because it was recorded via Skype in a glass room!)

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith:

@yogoldsmith

Jeff gets an amazing roster of writers talking at great length about how they started, their careers and their latest film. This is American too, but he gets loads of British writers on the show. These are often recorded after a screening, and the audience get to ask questions.

He previously presented the Creative Screenwriting podcast, which no longer seems to be on iTunes, but I’m sure you can find it if you go digging online. They were terrific, essentially the same format, but presented in association with the magazine Creative Screenwriting.

Filmsack:

Not a podcast about writing, but these guys love popcorn movies. They watch them on Netflix (which can skew what kinds of movies are available) then get together over Skype to dissect them. They’re really good at pointing out tropes and plot holes, which is invaluable for a writer. The earlier episodes on films like Superman and Wrath of Khan are outstanding.

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review:

@wittertainment

Probably the best film show on radio. It goes through phases of being overly self-referential, but Kermode is passionate and really knows his stuff, and Mayo keeps him in line, and it’s a weekly lesson in how intelligent, informed audiences will react to movies.  Hello to Jason Isaacs.

Empire:

I bloody love Empire, and this podcast is huge fun, but it’s the spoiler specials that are particularly good for writers as the gang will often dissect the story in minute detail. The epic Chris McQuarrie Mission Impossible spoiler special (nearly three hours long!) is an incredibly frank look at how a blockbuster gets made. Gold:

 

 

The BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture Series:

More of an annual event than a regular podcast, these are live lectures recorded for podcasts, and so there are references to clips that the listener doesn’t get to see, but there are some very experienced and wise minds dispensing advice here and you’d be a fool to miss out!

Film Nuts

Filmmaker Mustapha Kseibati shares his colossal passion for film in this series of interviews with UK writers and directors. And it’s the only place where you’ll here me get excited about the Dad’s Army film. Mus’ is a busy man, so there aren’t as many of these as I’d like, but each one has nuggets of wisdom.

The Allusionist

Okay, so not a podcast about writing, but if you’re a writer you’ll love words and Helen Zaltzman’s podcast is a delight. You’ll come away from each episode with another insight into what makes word work, and that can only make you a better writer.

 

And that’s it! Do please let me know if there are any I’ve missed. I’m not sure I can squeeze any more into my week, but I’m always up for something new.

Getting a poster signed is harder than you think.

Please note: this competition is now closed!

As part of Gollancz’s wonderful advent calendar giveaway for Christmas 2015, I am delighted to be able to offer a very special prize of a Robot Overlords quad poster signed by myself, director Jon Wright, and some of our lovely cast including Craig Garner (Mediator 452), James Tarpey (Nathan), Ella Hunt (Alex) and Gillian bleedin’ blinkin’ flippin’ Anderson!

Getting these signatures was no easy task. Jon, Ella and I attended the MCM Comic Con in Birmingham in March, and we signed a few for punters then, but they were all gone before I  could grab a spare.

And this was the first I had seen of the posters, which meant that when I was in the company of living legend Sir Ben Kingsley the previous week for his publicity stint, I didn’t have one for him to sign!

I did get manage to get some for EasterCon in April, and clung on to the three I had left over with a cunning plan to get as many of the Robot Overlords stars to sign them over the coming year of cons and festivals.

Next up was the London MCM in May, and this was when I hit Robo-star paydirt. We were interviewing some of the actors for DVD extras, and I was lucky enough to nab Craig and James in between shooting and they were gracious enough to sign my posters. Next up was Gillian Anderson, but her schedule was so incredibly tight that there was no guarantee she would have the time to sign. Indeed, the very second after she arrived, she was swept away for a series of interviews, such is the nature of these high-pressure press days: everything is timed to the minute, and I would have to choose my moment carefully if I was to crash in. Next she had a panel with Jon, where she received fan-love, chocolates, and a proposal from James…

And then after that she was swept away for an interview with James for the DVD. By now, her car had its engine running (she was about to fly off to make something called The X-Files… you may have heard of it), and my window of opportunity was rapidly closing.

Luckily, our publicist Marek came to the rescue and somehow found a gap of 76.5 seconds in the schedule. We threw the posters on the floor, threw a bunch of silver Sharpies at Gillian and while I held the posters flat she kneeled down and scribbled her autograph on them. There was even time for a fanboy pic…

I haven't washed since...
I haven’t washed since…
… and then she was gone!

I carefully rolled the posters into their tube… But I wanted more!!

My other targets were Ella, Callan McAuliffe (Sean) and Milo Parker (Connor). But they were all off making other movies: Callan’s made five films since Robots, Milo was away with Gandalf making Mr. Holmes, and Ella had a big costume drama lined-up… But then it got bumped to next year! Her delay was my good fortune, and she kindly popped into the Gollancz offices where we put the world to rights over tea and brownies, and she signed the posters.

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So there you have it, fair reader. If you are the lucky winner of this poster, please bear in mind all the times I had to lug a poster tube on the underground, all the miles and miles of Sharpie ink, and all the nerves and tension wondering if I would get those rare signatures. Frame it, prostate yourself before it every morning, give it a dust every now and then, and then flog it when you’re old and grey and I’ve won all those Oscars.

Click here to go to the Gollancz blog to enter (UK-only, I’m afraid, but I’m sure you overseas folk have friends in the UK who can enter on your behalf, and if they win they can pop it in the post after they’ve first gazed upon its awesomeness, yes?)

Good luck!

 

I’ll be at the MCM Comic Con, London 23-25 October – come and say hi!

MCM Comic Con 23-25 OctoberExcel – London – Royal Victoria Dock

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I’ll be in the Comic Village at the mega MCM Comic Con at the Excel in London. Come along and say hi, ask me about the behind-the-scenes secrets of the Robot Overlords, and get yourself a signed copy of the book (or, if you’ve already got a copy, or a DVD, or Blu Ray, then bring them with you!) this will be your last opportunity before Christmas! (After this I’m having a lie down…)

I’ll be in the company of the splendid author and illustrator of the Union-verse books Mr. Kit Cox (who kindly invited me along with the promise of good times and tea and biscuits).

Now, here comes the complicated bit… I’ll be there all day Friday, Saturday afternoon, and all day Sunday. I won’t be there Saturday morning, because I’ll be here instead…

London Screenwriters’ Festival, Saturday 24th October, 9-10am (Yes! A.M.!).

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Join me for a post-breakfast panel (bring your own croissants!) – should be good fun. Here’s the blurbery…

Robot Overlords is an unusual beast: a British indie family science fiction adventure movie starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, with a hefty (for the UK) VFX budget.

Join co-writer Mark Stay to see how this idea evolved from a two-page pitch to a finished film that premiered at the London Film Festival and topped the home entertainment charts.

Topics Mark will cover in-depth include:

Writing pitch documents

Working and writing with a director

Writing for VFX

The perils of British distribution!

Read the script (available in the booking & submissions page) then watch the movie on DVD/Blu-Ray or digital download ahead of the session to get the very most out of this in-depth dissection of one of the most ambitious UK genre films of the year.

For more info click here.