Friday, 29 June 2012

The Twilight Zone - Part Two

Happy Friday everyone!

Here is part two of my blog serial, The Twilight Zone.

I have updated the above page with some information on Bristol Zoo - you can also find part one here.

Click here to read Part Two of The Twilight Zone.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Death and superstition

Speaking of identity, as I was yesterday, I thought I would share another part of myself that isn’t film or writing; history.  I have a degree in archaeology and while I haven’t done anything with this as such, the concepts still intrigue me.

The other day I found this; ‘Digging up the dead’, an article about what happens to the thousands of graves that just happen to be in the way of new rail lines and roads.

It paints a picture of how much space is at a premium, how you can no longer develop an area without uncovering the dead.  During my degree it always sent me buzzing that graves were dug upon graves, that you can’t dig anywhere anymore without finding a human body part.

This is a very difficult subject.  The ethics are tricky but surmountable.  All bodies are treated with dignity – dug up with brushes and trowels and rarely using machines (unless the grave is very deep) and they are always reburied.
It is also a chance for archaeologists to learn a great deal about that certain area and the people who once lived there by dating the burials, looking at the graves as a whole and individually, studying any grave goods (jewellery, pottery, weapons, coinage) and studying the skeletons for disease and wear and tear to ascertain how these people lived.

From my point of view as a once archaeology student, I hate the idea of moving history.  These are the burial sites for this particular society during this particular time and if we move them, they will never be there again.  Recording our findings in books is not the same as those people spending their afterlives in that particular soil, or being able to go to that site and tell the younger generations, ‘this is where a family of slaves were buried.’  Adding ‘they’re not there anymore’ makes it lose the punch somehow.

The interesting argument on this topic is that of the superstitious; that if the dead are moved from their sacred burial plots on consecrated grounds that bad things will ensue.  This is not a silly feeling that some people might have, this is a cultural superstition inbred into all of us. 
I was watching a Tony Robinson documentary the other day about witches and they showed how when asked to deface or stab a photo of someone you love, the majority of people will be unwilling to do so despite knowing that logically no harm will come to those in the photo.  This is a similar thing; logically most people know that if the dead are moved and reburied, nothing will happen, but there is always that lingering instinctual doubt that we are doing something very wrong that could cause harm.  It is a wonderful human characteristic of our ancestral and perhaps prehistoric superstitions and beliefs passed on through generations and our genes that can either be a warm fluffy feeling of protectiveness and loyalty or lead to the condemnation and murder of thousands of people (as with witchcraft).

Logically and scientifically, it is fine to move these bodies with dignity and care and rebury them in the name of progression.  But nothing will ever change the fact that it threatens our own history and it is still taboo, manipulating that prehistoric feeling of not wanting to upset that which is unknown.

Remember to check this blog out tomorrow for the next instalment of Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


I know I've done my blog post for today but I just found this article and had to share it.

Here is the first paragraph;

'There's a problem in Hollywood (and the rest of the world for that matter, but let's keep it small and manageable), and it is a lack of truly strong, independent female protagonists. It's not all the fault of the studios, either: in a world where "Twilight" makes billions, one has to assume that a character like Bella resonates with young females. And sadly, she does.'

This article is about Disney's new film Brave, particularly brave of Disney to create a strong female protangonist despite the fact that she's also a princess.  That doesn't bother me though, one of my favourite books when I was little was The Tractor Princess about a princess who was more interested in tractors and dirt than dresses.

Apparently Brave is also a film about a strong female protagonist with no love interest.  This is something that I've always wanted to write but I suppose it says a lot about my mind that men always have to feature. 
I now cannot wait to see this film.

Reclaiming my identity

Being on holiday is always a chance to reflect upon one’s life.  I don’t know about anyone else but for me it is all about finding myself again.  It’s as if I get lost amongst the busy days of work, keeping the house in order, looking after guinea pigs and everything else for months on end, so when I finally have a week off it’s a chance to breathe and figure out who I am again.

This usually begins with a weekend away for us.  We went to Inverness which is a glorious part of the world and I have just spent a pointless hour looking at gorgeously cheap, large family homes in Scotland that I will never be able to seriously contemplate.  The weekend was a chance to forget about everything, I forgot what I do for a living and everything that had been worrying me dwindled into insignificance. Writing is never far from my mind though and I was faced with a beautiful setting just perfect for werewolf and zombie stories.  So this weekend past I toyed with the dream of living in the Scottish Highlights and writing.  I wish.

I spent yesterday with a friend at her house where we ate and drank and relived our University days watching classic Men Behaving Badly.  Hearing about what’s happening in her life at the moment and how different it is to mine was refreshing and inspiring.  Watching Tony and Gary drink themselves into stupors was also strangely refreshing – as if remembering that freedom of University days past.  Why can’t I get lost in sugar (lager) and late nights anymore?

Maybe holidays, for me, are not just about rediscovering myself but also about reminding myself that I am an adult (I need to learn to say no at work).  I’m no longer a child or teenager; I can now do what I want, when I want, within reason of course.  I need this week off, every now and then, to remind myself to grab opportunities, to look at the bigger picture, to question everything that has happened since my last holiday and reclaim my identity. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Did anyone see Lifers last night (available on 40D)?  It was a documentary about murderers serving life sentences and it was fascinating.
The documentary makers did a fantastic job of giving an insight into possibly every sort of murdering mind possible; from the autistic man who was failed by the system to the ruthless man who shows no remorse.

I was sceptical at first; these men will say whatever will get them what they want when a camera is shoved in their face, be it parole or to stay behind bars.  However it actually felt like there were some truths being spoken and in some cases that was more chilling than thinking the convicts were just playing the game.

Whether it was the true personalities of the prisoners coming through or the clever editing of the documentary makers, there were murderers who I empathised with and liked and others who scared me.  Ozzy and Shaun were two that I definitely liked.  
 Shaun killed a woman completely at random and then handed himself in to the police.  As he was telling his story of how he never felt that he fitted into society and how he felt when he first met the woman he killed, I thought to myself ‘that man is autistic’.  Sure enough, he has been diagnosed with Asbergers syndrome.  He had been failed by the government, I thought, and therefore so has the woman he killed.  I wonder if he had received some sort of treatment and/or support at an earlier age, if that woman would still be alive.  He was full of regret but also seemed a little relieved that finally someone else had confirmed that something was wrong with him – what a shame that it had to come to murder for him to finally get an answer.

Then there was Ozzy, a very open man who had killed his best friend over an argument about drugs.  He showed real remorse and acceptance of having to spend those years behind bars.  I was very pleased for him when he was moved to an open prison and one step closer to freedom and his family.

A lot of the prisoners spoke with logic – why escape if that means that you won’t be able to see your family and friends for fear of being caught?  Why escape to go from one prison to another, better to bide your time and behave and hope for early release.  That isn’t to say that many were just playing a game.  So many seemed to be remorseful and many of those cases appeared to be moments of madness – the snapping of a mind during an argument, or in Shaun’s case perhaps the build up of tension and frustration of knowing something is wrong but being unable to do anything about it.

Although sad, it was nice to be able to empathise with these murderers.  As a writer, these are all fascinating characters, but perhaps a little too easy; a genuine person who makes a mistake for whatever reason.  What about the bad side of the Lifers?

At the beginning a haunting point is made – for those who will die in jail, what is the incentive to be good?  When a prisoner is left alone with police guards, why not kill them both?  What’s the worst that could happen?  

The prisoner that really got under my skin was the Welshman who kicked a friend to death for an hour and a half after a night of drinking.  The documentary makers asked this English hating man why he showed no emotion with recounting his crime and the prisoner laughed and said ‘I don’t know.’
And then there was the bloke who killed an old man for his money, playing pool he tells the camera that he would rather be in prison right now.  Where he has a roof over his head, three meals a day, work, social time and opportunities while out in the real world he wouldn’t be able to get a job and would struggle to make ends meet.  While I personally wanted to hurt him he did have an annoying point – given the economic crisis, do the prisoners have it better than us?  I do hope David Cameron was watching that part.

It is always interesting to get into the mind of someone very different from you (or not so different – everyone is capable of murder), to find out what makes them tick.  It is fascinating that so many people act completely differently when faced with the reality that they have taken a life, whether they show remorse or take it as an opportunity to simply gain qualifications and better themselves (this did leave me fuming with confliction – prisoners should be given the chance to better themselves so that they can return to society but what about the mentality of ‘I can’t afford to get a qualification I want, maybe I should go and kill someone?’).

This documentary is definitely worth a watch whether you’re a writer or not.  If you are a writer, who do you think would make a more interesting character for a story?  Who would you focus on?  Does it change your perspective on any of your existing characters?
Given that my beloved Emily May considers herself a murderer, I may have a rethink of what exactly is going on in her mind and how she copes with this to see if there is anything more that I can bring to her.

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Twilight Zone

So, yesterday I mentioned something special coming today.
On Sunday it is my first wedding anniversary.  We're off to sunny Inverness for the weekend so I won't be posting anything until next week.

However to celebrate my first anniversary, and to share some of my writing with you, I have started a serial based at Bristol Zoo, which is where I got married almost a year ago today.

This is an Emily May serial and sits between my first novel, Silver, and my second, Wings, which is currently being written.  Neither of these books are available to buy just yet but watch this space.

The Twilight Zone sees werewolf hunter Emily May and her first love, vampire hunter Bane, investigating strange occurances at Bristol Zoo.  People have started mysteriously disappearing from within the nocturnal house. It is unlike anything they have ever seen before and when Bane, too, vanishes, Emily is forced to fight it alone.

I will post each installment on a Friday and it should run for 12 weeks.  All installments will be available as we go from the above page and please feel free to leave comments.

I do hope you enjoy it and feel able to share it with whoever you think might like it.

Click here for Part One.

You will need Adobe Reader to download these - it can be downloaded from here.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Something special this way comes

This blog post is a bit of a cop out.
This is because I have decided to do something special but it has to wait until tomorrow...

In the meantime, last night I went to see The Blues Brothers on the big screen.  It was incredible, I'd almost forgotten what an amazing film it is.  I thought I'd share some bits with you...

The Blues Brothers (1980) stars John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd as brothers Jake and Elwood Blues.  This classic is a film of three ingrediants;

Car chases (You got us into this parking lot pal, you get us out)

Great lines (my favourite and a classic)

And music. I wish I could put all of the songs on here but I can't - so go watch the film!

Remember to come back tomorrow for my special something!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My precious...

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I will promote my novel once it is published.  I haven't thrown myself into the research yet, especially as I've decided to wait a while before seeking an agent and looking into self publishing seriously.  Still, I'm working out a lot of ideas.

It dawned on me recently that in order to sell my book I will first of all have to admit to being a writer; whole-heartedly and shamelessly.

Today at lunchtime I stole away from my desk, novel under my arm and set about editing while munching on my sandwich.  A colleague crept up behind me and asked if I had brought my work into the canteen.  No!  I exclaimed.  Of course I haven't, this is just - and this was my moment to tell her who and what I really am - this is just something personal.

Maybe I'm just not ready to share my true identity with everyone just yet, not before I have something to sell and push.  Or maybe I lack confidence, scared that she might want to read it (despite noticing her reading over my shoulder as we talked). 

I've been a writer my entire life; since I learned how to spell my first word, and a storyteller since I learned how to talk.  My friends at school all knew (and were very supportive), my English teachers all guessed but none of my current work team know.  There have been opportunities to tell them all about it, today's lunchtime is just one example of many, but for some reason I always hold back.

Writers are private people, writing is who they are, it's their identity and it is precious to them.  It's one of the great mysteries - how does a writer sell their work if they don't want to tell anyone who they are?  What are we scared of?  That someone will hate our work?  I think for me the fear stems more from letting someone into the inner workings of my mind.  Some day (soon I hope) I will have to become brave and declare to my work place who I really am (the world already knows thanks to this blog!) in the hope that they will buy my books, help me pay my bills and help to make my publishing dream come true.

Until that time I'm a bit like a superhero; an office worker by day and a caped crusading writer by night!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Happy Fathers Day!

As it is Fathers Day today I thought I would do a fitting blog post to my dad (don’t worry, this isn’t all he’s getting for Fathers Day, later on I will be going round my parents house to eat their food too).

My dad has given me a lot over the years; endless support both emotional and financial, words of wisdom, a love of dogs, he helped me buy my first car, he is always there when I need him.  And he has introduced me to a lot of amazing films.  This blog being what it is, I thought I would focus on the film aspect.  

Firstly, I feel I should say that while my dad does love films, he is fairly quiet about it, unlike me.  So while some of these explanations may not seem much to you, they mean an awful lot to me.
Here are the top five (ish) films that my dad introduced me to;

  1. Die Hard 4 and parts of 3 (and consequently Die Hard 1, 2 and 3)
I had only seen parts of Die Hard 3 when Die Hard 4 came out at the cinema, which I believe we saw for my dad’s birthday.  I knew my dad loved Die Hard but he didn’t watch it often until Sky TV came into our lives and Die Hard was on regularly.  However, he was quite secretive about it, watching it after my mum had gone to bed and when I was a teenager and hiding in my room.  So Die Hard 4 was my first introduction and it was love at first sight.  He then shared the wonders of Die Hard and Die Hard 2 with me and we now share the DVD collection.

      2.  Always
Now, Always isn’t one of my favourite films but it is one of my dads.  However, what watching this film when I was younger did give me was an appreciation of Richard Dreyfuss.  Imagine my delight when I first discovered my favourite film, Stand By Me, and that Richard Dreyfuss was in that!

      3.  Star Trek: Nemesis

Yes, my dad’s a bit of a Trekkie and therefore so am I.  I wasn’t brought up on Star Wars, this was never shown in our family home.  No, I was brought up on Star Trek.  The Next Generation is where my heart lies and Nemesis is the main film that sticks with me.
We went to see it at the cinema and my mum found it very funny that sat behind us were three grown men all in tears over Data’s demise – never mind that we were all wiping the tears away.

     4.  Executive Decision 

One night when the family were sat in front of the television, Executive Decision came on and my dad wanted to watch it.  Neither me or my mum were interested and we started off by taking the mickey – my poor dad.  My mum soon got bored and went to bed but by that point I was hooked.  Harrison Ford fighting with commandoes on a plane that's being taken over by terrorists?  Go on then!

     5.  The 6th Day

Similarly, I walked into the lounge one evening to find my dad watching The 6th Day.  ‘What’s this?’  I asked.  ‘Some Arnie film,’ my dad replied.  Well, that was enough for me.  I sat down and watched the whole thing with him.  This film is now one of my guilty pleasures and has pride of place in my DVD collection.

    6.  Air Force One 

Yup, my dad likes planes.  And action.  And possibly Harrison Ford...
What did I love about this film?  The genius of Gary Oldman, a true character actor.  My dad already had this film in his collection and I actually can’t remember how I came to watch it.  I just know that now it’s in my collection.  In fact, I think I may have nicked it off him...I wonder if he’s noticed...

   7, 8 and 9.  Batman/Batman Returns, The Terminator/Terminator 2 and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

These are the three biggies.  These are the three films that truly resonate in my memory from my childhood.  Sunday films for watching over Sunday lunch.  I never stopped watching them and I still love them with the same passion that I did back then.  Not only that, but each of these films have given me so much.

My parents shielded me well from The Terminator.  Until we went to Florida when I was about nine years old, to Universal Studios and my dad wanted to go on the Terminator ride.  My mum wasn’t sure at first, I seem to remember, but eventually gave in.  Again, I was immediately hooked and begged my parents to let me watch the films when we got home.  My first introduction to Arnie and the classic that is The Terminator (and Terminator 2).

I saw Batman at a very early age too.  By Batman, I mean Tim Burton’s classic Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton and Batman Returns.  I don’t remember much about my first viewings, just that I enjoyed it.  My mum would fast forward through the beginning when Jack Nicholson’s face get melted and it wasn’t until my teens that I watched the full film.  It also wasn’t until my teens that I truly appreciated Batman and the magic happened.  I vividly remember watching these films in my room, as the bats flee from the huge Christmas tree I was overcome with a new sensation.  One that I can’t really describe but it is now my marker for a good film.  It was a buzz that started inside my stomach, a warmth, an excitement, a burst of inspiration.  It marked the beginning of my passion for fantasy/science fiction/geek and, as such, Tim Burton can now do no wrong in my eyes.  And I have my dad’s (and mum’s) love of these amazing films to thank for that.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was very similar in that I never knew it started with hands being cut off until I was a teenager.  I don’t know why this film sits so heavily with me.  Maybe it was the family in-joke of saying ‘Robin of Loxley’ with such a broad American accent (bless Kevin Costner), maybe it was the one liners or the Medieval action or the brilliance of Alan Rickman.  Who can say...

My dad’s taste in films has had a profound effect on my own taste, whether he meant that to happen or not.  I would also like to point out that watching such violent and potentially scary films at a young age did me no harm – I don’t remember actually understanding them fully at that age.

So I would like to thank my wonderful dad, for being the best dad ever and giving me one of the most important things in my life – my love of explosions, cops with bare feet, caped crusaders, robots, men with bows and arrows and Arnie films.

All together now!
There was a rich man from Nottingham, who tried to cross the river.  What a dope, he tripped on a rope, now look at him shiver!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Lunch inspiration and TWD

I have had a ridiculously busy week and because of that, it being Friday and that I want to try and write as much as possible this evening and tomorrow morning, I'm going to keep this post brief.

Firstly, I was struck by how randomly inspiration can hit today.  Inbetween meetings I ran onto the high street to grab a sandwich, ducking and weaving around slow old people and gliding amongst rain drops.  As I passed a small branch of a well known bank in a very historic building, a car pulled up outside.  Out got a gentleman in his twenties.  He carefully, and a little wobbly, placed a can of beer on the pavement and strolled past me into the bank.
A beautiful moment; a perfect start to a short story, I realised as I raced back to my office to gobble my sandwich.
Maybe he just had the day off and was enjoying himself with a quick errand to the bank.  Or maybe he's unemployed and developing a drinking problem, popping to the bank to cash in a cheque from his parents.  Or maybe he's lacking in confidence.  Perhaps that can of beer was not his first and was pumping him full of fake courage so that he could rob the bank - it's only a small branch and his friends stayed in the car directly outside, parked on double yellow lines, just right for a quick getaway.

Inspiration can be found everywhere and anywhere - even on a hectic work day. (I would like to mention that I'm 99% sure he didn't rob the place!)

On a separate note entirely, I was made very happy this week by the following photo being released.  One of my favourite characters is returning to The Walking Dead in season 3 which will reach our screens later in the year.  Cannot.  Wait.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Prometheus; a film about Aliens

Last night I saw Prometheus.

I’ll leave that sentence on its own to create some sort of impact because that’s what this film should do.  This film has been built up so much, it has been made the cinema event of the year so far.

It certainly lives up to the name of Ridley Scott.  Prometheus is beautifully shot and a spectacle to behold and a definite cinematic must see.
Two scientists (presumably archaeologists) discover artworks depicting humans bowing down to tall men pointing to the same constellation of stars throughout numerous civilisations in different parts of history who would have had no contact with one another.  It’s not a map, it’s an invitation, according to these scientists, although it looks like more of a map to me personally.

Anyway, it gets these scientists onto the spaceship titan Prometheus and the crew travel to one of these stars to hunt for these tall men, named ‘engineers’ who are thought to be the creators of life on earth.  These engineers, however, are not quite as they appear...

The concept of this film was dreamt up by Ridley Scott twenty years ago as an Alien prequel but it has not been marketed as such.  In fact, they have strongly said that this is not an Alien prequel.  If this is true, then Prometheus is a standalone film about a crew going to a planet and finding something there they didn’t expect.  The potential is enormous.

An Alien prequel would have been wonderful, a new standalone film would have been incredible.  Unfortunately, I felt that this film tried to do both and in doing so failed at both, making it simply a good film.

There were obvious references to Alien throughout the film which did not elicite the right sort of buzz that a bonefide prequel may have done.  The script was bulky in places and predictable (probably because it is actually an Alien prequel).  I didn’t mind these hurdles too much.  Some parts were successfully scary and gory and these were very well done and memorable.

None of the characters were fully developed which I found very frustrating.  The only main character who I felt any empathy towards, the only main character I actually cared about, was David (Michael Fassbender) who, ironically, is the android.  David stole the show but even some of his actions were unexplainable and without meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, there was some excellent acting involved.  I especially like the Scottish doctor, the ship captain and his two crewmen, the geologist and biologist but that’s all we knew them as.  Their characters were not developed to the extent that we learned to care about them, they simply existed and we never really learnt who they were.
I honestly didn’t see the point in Charlize Theron’s character – Vickers – she was unlikeable throughout and seemed to serve no purpose on the ship.  She seemed to exist purely for her living quarters which featured more prominently in the plot than she did.
Noomi Rapace (Dr Shaw and arguably the new Ripley – interesting how both Alien and Prometheus have these strong women as their protagonists) was excellent but I didn’t care for her character for one moment during the entire film.

There were a number of a plot holes in the film, unexplainable moments that didn’t quite seem to fit and had been thrown in just so that something else could happen.  Again it is difficult to explain without giving away big spoilers (Dr Holloway for one), so here is a very interesting list of questions and theoriesthat the Guardian have come up with if anyone is interested.

So what about these engineers?  I was fascinated and loved the philosophy behind this film; I wanted to know more.  The engineers were well designed, with a wonderful mixture of human and alien that worked really well.  I can’t really say much more because there isn’t much more to say – not a lot is learned about these intelligent aliens and I found that utterly disappointing.  This was the major pitfall in the film and, as the film went on, made the story a little bland.

Apparently there are two sequels planned for Prometheus which I think is a huge mistake.  This film could have been amazing; the film event of the year, if only they done the story properly instead of spreading it into a trilogy.  I assume they will explain more about the engineers, the full philosophy and answer all questions during these films.  Is anyone else tired of trilogys?  I am, and no part of this film made me want to watch a sequel...

...Except for the last five seconds of Prometheus.  This was the only part of the film that got my blood running.  I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but it made my night.  Strangely, none of the men I went to the cinema with agreed.  They all thought that part of the ending was awful.  I wondered at first if this was because I’m a girl, maybe my gender has something to do with it in some strange and supernatural way?  So today at work I spoke to another female who has seen the film – a non-geek who stared at me a little blankly when I mentioned the Alien references.  She also disliked the end.  So it’s just me – just me who enjoyed the blatant, dark and tantalising connection to Alien.

This film isn’t The Dark Knight, nor is it Alien, funnily enough, but it is definitely worth watching.  It may not have been an official Alien prequel but it left me desperate to reacquaint myself with Alien and Ripley.