Sunday, 20 March 2011


I don't normally heckle, too much respect for anyone who has the guts to stand up and perform.  But I did heckle last night, so did a load of other people too - because if we didn't, the show couldn't go on.

'Star Destroyer' is a play written by improv veteran Lloydie at Nottingham Arts Theatre - set in an almost bankrupt planetarium, the comedy sets up it's stall with a bunch of odd characters and odder situations.
Actually, it's half a play - at the end of act one's cliffhanger, it's up to us lot, in the dark.  The audience gave a bunch of things the characters would have to improv about in the second act, and fifteen minutes later, 'our' play would carry on, with 'our' ending.

Nonlinear storytelling (which I first discovered as a kid with the magnificent Fighting Fantasy adventure books) is something that is becoming more and more feasible with the rise of programming technology; it's something I think we'll see more and more of as computer games become more complex in their narrative- and begin to influence other forms of media.  I wouldn't want every narrative I experience to end under my direction, but to watch a story you've influenced come to life in front of you was really exciting last night, and gave me lots of food for thought for how I could tell some of my stories in the future.

'Star Destroyer' is on again tonight (21st March 2011) - I broke my heckling duck last night, and helped to write a play; I wonder how it'll end tonight...

Thursday, 10 March 2011


I've been lax on running over the last couple of weeks - days when I should have done it have been given over to other stuff, or final editing for Hidden Daughter.  I've ditched four wheels for walking and cycling to get some sort of exercise to fill in the gaps, but there's a nagging feeling I'm not doing enough.

Then I arrange to meet up for a drink in town last night - I head for the bus stop, and see the bus sail past the end of the road...  The next thing I remember is saying 'hello' without a wheeze to the bus driver, then taking my seat in a debonair fashion, rather than collapsing in a heap on the floor.  Between those two points, I must have sprinted like a gazelle.  Because I run, and walk and cycle a bit more than I used to- all those little bits accumulate to help my body achieve what I wanted to do.

It's the same with writing - as I'm reaching the final chapters of line edits for Hidden Daughter, my skills in understanding what works and doesn't work, what drives story forward or builds character for a conclusion which will surprise, or delight, or horrify the reader has started to become second nature.  But it's only through continually moving myself forward as a writer that I can achieve it.

The most exciting thing though, is that the process of writing one story has opened my mind up to the possibilities of stories in different worlds, as well as the one occupied by Penny and her Catherine - I just have to find a way to type and run...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Four years ago, buying a notebook was the second best idea I ever had.

The best idea was to put things in it.  I’ve no idea how many notebooks are sold world wide each year, but I’m sure a fair number of them don’t see the light of day past the second page – I know I’ve been guilty of it in the past (the trick is buy small, so they can be stuck in a pocket or bag with a pen.)

Now I’ve got past that, I can’t stop.  Half ideas, stuff I’d seen, songs from the radio, books I should read – I put the lot in there.  I’m not sure how much of it I’ll ever use, but I know it’s all useful – the process of training yourself to take an interest in the world around you is vital as a writer – Adrian Reynolds has written about this in his blog – even if the world you’re writing about doesn’t really exist.

Which is how I got to the Html Patchwork, an Open Source Embroidery project, which pulls computer programmers, knitters and embroiderers together to make a patchwork tapestry of a web-friendly colour palette, each part coded and stitched by hand.  Suddenly, a very 21st century concept becomes rooted in something older than recorded history, and like the internet, it happens through the work of people from different places, different walks of life – their combined differences make the piece unique, with it’s own character outside of the people that made it happen.

It’s amazing how other people, a half dozen connections away, are thinking about the same things.  The meshing of new and old ideas and technologies is something that comes in Hidden Daughter – Penny is a time traveller who tries to live a normal life as a seamstress, combining old skills in the modern world to keep herself stable in an unstable life.  And the Needle, the time machine Penny’s rivals have begun to use, is a mix of 21st Century parallel processing and supercooling liquids, married to with 20th Century industrial engineering, rogue telephone exchanges and elevator music that can’t be switched off.

All I need to do now is finish line editing it, and you can see how it all fits together for yourself…