Friday, November 28, 2008

Red Planet Prize - Second Round Announcements

Well, I gather people have started hearing if they're through to the next stage of this year's Red Planet Prize.

I haven't heard anything, so I guess no news is bad news, right? But maybe it's a case of 'not heard yet', so I'll just keep clicking F9 to refresh my e-mail Inbox for a few more hours yet.

I know David has made it through, any other folks heard good news? Congratulations if you did.

UPDATED TO SAY: They sent an e-mail this afternoon, which is good, as it stops me wondering if I'd missed a vital e-mail. A nice touch, I think, as whether it's yes or no, it prevents me waiting needlessly.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Post For Those Of You Who Hail From The Americas

Just a quick note to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving - if you're reading this, after all, you have access to the internet, in what I presume is a safe location, and you probably know where your next meal's coming from, so indeed you (and, being in the same position as I type this, I) have much to be thankful for.

Have some roast potatoes for me!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sliced Penguin

Penguin Books have made the first chapters of a fairly impressive number of books available for free download, under the name Penguin Tasters (presumably a poetry will soon do a similar range called 'Poetasters'... hmm, maybe not).

Anyway, they're available here - they're PDF files, but if you have an eBook reader or similar, you can download eBook versions here.

Incidentally, if you do have a Sony eReader or Amazon Kindle or the like, what's it like? Every time such an item is launched I see various reviews and promo pieces, but I don't think I know anyone who's ever actually used one. So, a first-hand report would be interesting - anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Okay, Maybe He Didn't Say It, But…

Quoted on the Guardian Media site today, Barry Norman says in a recent interview:

"People started coming up to me saying, 'And why not?' and giggling. I was always baffled. I never said it! Rory Bremner said it when he was impersonating me on his Channel 4 show. I still defy anybody to find a programme where I did use it…"

Writing in 2003, Barry Norman 'said':

"And Why Not?"

Not entirely unkeen on the phrase, then.

Six Days To Write Six Words - Six Words To Sum Up A Lifetime

In case you hadn't seen it, or had forgotten that the deadline was looming, just a quick note to remind you that The Guardian Six Word Memoir competition closes on midnight on Sunday.

I've entered it (though I don't think I can provide you with a direct link to my contribution, the site seems slightly oddly set up), and I found it fun, though it is actually slightly challenging - though it's tempting to put something irredeemably flippant (which, some might say, would be in line with my life as lived so far), I also felt slightly as if I ought to try to do it properly… whether I succeeded in this, I guess others will ultimately decide.

Anyway, if you haven't had a go yet, why not do so?

(Link swiped from Laura, I should confess.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sex! Sex! Sex! (...Yep, That Should Bring In The Google Traffic)

If you want sex - good sex, hot sex, steamy sex, the kind of sex that makes your insides tingle and your brain feel like it's been squeezed tightly by an ice-cold hand, well… well, you've come to the wrong place. This is only a blog, after all, and it's early on Sunday morning.

What I can offer, though, is Bad Sex. Well, details of this year's Bad Sex In Fiction Award, anyway.

You want it? Then put your 'pointer' here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to roll over and go back to sleep.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Touting Myself, and Pimping A Friend

Well, after much promising and even more delaying, the new version of My Website is up and running. I won't pretend it's a state-of-the-art cutting-edge site, but hopefully it'll prove useful for people who are trying to track me down or scout me out for writing purposes.

More exciting, though - and certainly much prettier to look at, with pictures and everything - is the news that my friend and wedding photographer Toby has had some of his pictures made available for sale online. For a very reasonable fee, you can buy a royalty-free image of one of his photos, and use it to your heart's content.

Toby's stuff can be seen and bought here, so if you're looking for a good picture for whatever reason, it's worth a look. In fact, if you're looking for a photographer for whatever reason, I can heartily recommend Toby - he's a friend, yes, but that's because he's friendly, as well as being very skilled with the lens. You can contact him via the above links, I believe, and please do tell him I sent you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

BBC Radio Drama Q&A

So, as mentioned last week, last night was the BBC Writersroom Radio Drama Q&A, at a BBC building near Marylebone here in London. It was being recorded, and a transcript was mentioned, but in the meantime here's my report on it - it's not a full breakdown, but hopefully it's of interest.

The event was hosted by Kate Rowland of the BBC Writersroom, and featured Sarah Daniels and Kwame Kwei-Armah, both of whom have written extensively for radio as well as stage and screen. Both of them were articulate and amusingly candid, and gave a lot of useful insights into the business of writing. Talking about how he got into writing in general, Kwame said that as an actor he realised the best way to play the roles he wanted would be to write them, and that he had a need to create the stories he wanted to see.

Sarah, in reference to the radio medium, said that she felt it was the best medium to write for, because as a writer you had the freedom to take the story anywhere in space and/or time, as there's a sound effect for everything you could possibly write. She stressed, though, that it was important to focus on writing good drama rather than thinking in terms of writing for radio, as there could be a tendency to overdo the FX side of things.

Kwane echoed this, adding that due to the absence of visual cues on the radio - he cited the example of one character looking at another knowingly - he enjoyed the challenge of 'negotiating the medium', and finding words to convey emotion and the like.

Talking about the opening moments - and for writers, this would equate to the initial pages - Sarah urged everyone to make sure that there was something, no matter what it was, to hook the listeners' attention within the first couple of minutes. She pointed out that whilst someone who wasn't enjoying a play would probably wait until the interval before leaving, with the radio it's all too easy for a listener to switch channels, so you need to hook them in quickly.

Both writers agreed that one of the huge benefits of working in radio was the fact that you invariably worked with one person as Script Editor / Producer, compared to the multiple levels involved in, say, TV. Kwame used the phrase 'multiple frustrations' to describe the way that he'd previously had contradictory notes on his non-radio scripts, especially when they came from the same person.

Kwame pointed out that, as opposed to necessarily having to paint some kind of aural soundscape, it was possible to make a radio play very intimate, and he drew attention to how Sarah's work contained what he called 'space around the words', which I thought was a rather evocative phrase (reminds me of the comment about music being the gaps between the notes, which I think was said by Debussy).

Sarah admitted that she'd never been good at getting up early in the morning, and said that one of the best things about being a writer is that "you never have to do 'really early' again", a comment which drew laughter from the audience, even if it was probably slightly tinged with envy.

Discussing the issue of self-censorship (for example, when basing characters on, or portraying, real people), Sarah told about how she'd once removed some rather barbed material from a play she'd written, and it had actually been better for it, though Kwame had a contrary experience; to prevent his central character being too purely and unfeasibly heroic, he'd needed to add in some 'human foible' to the character, and had worried that this might have offended the last living relative of the person in question (it hadn't). He suggested that it was a question of negotiating your overall agenda as a writer - if you have a specific stance or point you want to voice - and how this could be balanced with the needs of the story and the characters. In a similar vein, Kate Rowland added that it was an important skill for writers to be able to self-edit.

Tying in rather nicely with his ealier remarks and bringing things full circle, one of Kwame's closing comments was that a good question to always ask yourself is "Is this something I'd enjoy?"

And that's my summary of the event. It was interesting, and did - as I'd hoped - spur me on to get on with the radio play which has been sitting on my hard drive, half-done, for… well, too long. Certainly glad I attended - it cost nothing to do so, and they were dishing out free drinks and notebooks - though it was amusing to spot, as I have at such events before, that my preferred choice of notebook, Moleskine, was very much in evidence. I think they're really good notebooks, but they do seem to be fairly ubiquitous amongst writers (though that might be testimony to their usefulness).

One slightly disappointing aspect of the event for me was that various people seemed to be less keen to take advantage of the opportunity to ask questions of the proper, living, breathing and more importantly professional writers in front of them, and a bit too keen to ask Kate Rowland questions about the process and policies of the BBC Writersroom - specifically, about issues relating to the rejection of their script, the background of the Writersroom readers, and that kind of thing. I thought this was misjudged, and I actually felt bad for the two writers, as they were sidelined in the overall discussion whilst Kate replied, explaining things which I felt she shouldn't have had to get into in that forum. There's enough information on the Writersroom site to answer most general questions, and if you've got a specific question about it, that's something to ask Kate afterwards - like the writers, she was available to chat with afterwards - and as there was a limited timeframe, I felt that this was a waste of time and opportunity - perhaps this is the self-editing so vital in writers that was referred to? (He wrote, at the end of a lengthy paragraph, as the words and irony weighed down on him…)

Anyway, it was a good event, and I even got to chat to Mr Beckley (who's not one millionth as terrifying as his profile photo might suggest), and bumped into an old workmate (hello Jessica, if you're reading this), which was a pleasant surprise, as when I worked with her I hadn't known she was interested in writing.

So, all in all, I'm very glad I went along.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Importance Of Clarity In Gift Requests

My mother-in-law and my neice have both asked for a CD called 'The Promise' for Christmas.

I shall have to be very careful with the gift tags, or great disappointment may ensue...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pay Some Attention To The Man Behind The Green Curtain. Er, I Mean 'Black Cape'...

Apologies if this is old news, but for those of you who felt that 'The Dark Knight' was a very good film, you can now download a PDF copy of the script. Given that it's hosted on the Warner Brothers site, and it's a WB film, I'm pretty confident this is legit.

So, to see how it was all done, click here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dear Television Santa

Dear BBC,

I gather that the character of Nick Cotton is due to return to EastEnders at Christmas.

Please could you arrange it so that he doesn't appear at the end of the Christmas afternoon episode, say "'Allo, Ma" before the doom-doom-doom drums, with the scene being continued in the evening episode?

If nothing else, it would be worryingly similar to the "Hello, Princess" return of Den Watts in 2003.

Lots of love,

John

The Persistence Of Memery

Well now, I seem to have been memed, by the ever-charming Mr Hale. Let's have a look at the question:

Sod Richard and Judy. Sod Oprah. What would you advise people to read? Name your favourite:

(a) Fiction book
(b) Autobiography
(c) Non-fiction book
(d) A fourth book of your choice from any genre.

Explain why the books are essential reads in no more than 30 words per book.


There's a challenge, but let's see if I can answer (almost certainly, I'm an opinionated swine), and do so within 30 words (almost certainly not, it's painfully obvious to everyone that I suffer from logorrhoea)...

Fiction: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A clear storyline, and strong characters make this a book to get lost in.

Autobiography: Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig. Often difficult and complex, but never dull, you might argue it's not really an autobiography, but there's a lot of interesting stuff in there.

Non-Fiction: History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell. I was on the dole for a while, and reading this bent my brain out of shape, which was just what I needed. A slog, but worth it. Honest.

And any other book: The List Of Seven by Mark Frost. A well-written thriller, with theosophy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many other aspects rolled into one. Full of clever twists, I could read this over and over. In fact, I have...

Just like Chris's reply, this is my list for now, and could well change if you asked me again... ooh, in three minutes. That said, I do urge people to read the above books.

And I hereby pass the baton of this meme to Jon, Laura, and Lara. Would be interested to know your recommendations, folks!

Gilliam Of The Damned

Is it just me, or does the poster for this 1963 film look like a Terry Gilliam animation for Monty Python's Flying Circus?

Friday, November 14, 2008

As Penelop Pitstop Might Say: Hay-elp! Hay-elp!

I'm once again calling on the techie expertise of you good people, I'm afraid, but you're smart folks, and I like to think you might be happy to share your wisdom...

Can anyone out there recommend any writing templates which are compatible with Microsoft Office 2007 and Vista? The freebie BBC Scriptsmart templates, good though they are, seem to be incompatible with this set-up, and I'm having a hard time finding some comparable templates to download.

(Yes, yes, I know I'm a fool for not having a Mac, and I ought to splash out on Final Draft or something similar, but I have a PC and thus have to live with it, and I'd rather not lash out the £100+ on FD this side of Christmas.)

Any assistance much appreciated - I'll owe you a drink (tea or something stronger, your choice).

Thanks!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Within A Mere Twenty-Four Hours! Oh yes!

In case you thought I was being a bit excessive here, I would politely point you towards the front cover of today's Sun...

If only I could turn this power to the lottery numbers, eh?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BBC Writersroom Event: Radio Drama Q and A

You might already have seen about this, but if not (and I hadn't until this morning), next Thursday (20th November), the BBC Writersroom are holding a free event on the subject of Radio Drama.

In attendance will be two writers who've written for radio (and stage and TV), Kwame Kwei-Armah and Sarah Daniels, and they'll be answering questions.

The event starts at 6pm, at the Marylebone Conference Centre in London, and you have to book a ticket (though, as I say, they're free) - full details on how to do this, and more information about the writers attending, can be found here.

I think I'll be going along - anyone else likely to be there ? Do let me know...

Press Release: To All UK Tabloid Newspapers

From: PR Office, ITV Productions
Subject: I'm A Celebrity… 2008

Dear All,

By now, you should have received yesterday's press release confirming the details of this year's line-up for I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, and we're sure you're just as excited about the new series as we are! (If, for some reason, you didn't get the press release, you can download it, and the rest of the press pack, by clicking here).

All the information you need to run coverage of this year's show is in there, so you should be able to get a good two or three pages' worth out of each episode. And whilst we try to answer all questions you might ask about the show as soon as possible, we realise that, what with there being three blonde women in the show this year, it does mean that some of you are quite rightly asking "Which woman are we supposed to write about when she takes a shower on day two this year?"

As we can't predict which of our three lovely ladies will provide you with some bikini-based cheesecake, we hope the following template will cover all possible eventualities (delete as appropriate to create the paragraph to accompany the picture, which should be at least two-thirds of a page, as in previous years):

Headline:
IT'S CARLY ZUCK-AHHH / DANI BARE / NICOLA Mc-CLEAN !

Text:
Saucy Carly Zucker / Dani Behr / Nicola McLean sent temperatures sky-high yesterday in I'm A Celebrity as she stripped down to a skimpy bikini to take a shower!

The sexy WAG / TV Presenter / WAG took the cold shower to cool off, but instead steamed up the camera lenses with her antics! A show insider said "She's a sexy girl, and when she just stripped off and started showering, the boys in the camp - and the crew - could hardly believe their eyes!"

Carly / Dani / Nicola 's partner is a footballer / restaurant owner / footballer, so she probably can't wait to get home to their mansion / eat some proper food / their mansion, but in the meantime it looks as if she's getting used to life in the jungle. Experts say she's tipped to be in the top four, but we'd say she's in the top Phwoar!

Hope this helps!

Best

ITV Productions

PS - If you want to take a more alternative angle, you can find one of the contestants pictured after a rather different kind of shower here

Monday, November 10, 2008

"But Surely," He Said, "The 'X Factor' Is A Simpleton's Way Of Referring To Einstein's Cosmological Constant?"*

Anyway, let's take a look at the previous couple of winners of ITV's song-based talent contest:

2006 Winner: LEONA Lewis
2007 Winner: LEON Jackson

It's 2008, and the final draws nigh (so I gather - I'm not following it). Is there an entrant called Leo this year? If so, worth a tenner at the betting shop, surely?

*Yes, yes, I know it's lamda, but if Albert can fudge his equations, I can do the same with my post titles.

Yes, I Know That Some Sources Say It Was 616

Welcome, all, to post 666 on the blog.

Whether this is necessarily somewhere where you can get your kicks, as the picture suggests, or if that a person who has understanding will count the number of the blog to be 666, I don't know.

Either way, I hope you don't find the blog to be evil in any way, and that if you can't get your kicks here, that you may at least find something of interest.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Remembrance Sunday

Something I've discovered - which I didn't know last Remembrance Day - is that my great-grandfather fought in World War I.

I'm still researching it further, but from what I've gleaned so far, he joined up in 1914 as one of the 'Pals Battallions' which were formed in Liverpool. As I understand it, these were formed because Lord Kitchener believed that the key to winning the war was sheer force of numbers, and so it was made possible for people to sign up with their friends and work colleagues, and serve alongside them. This was a very successful idea, as within several months over 3000 people signed up, and it appears that my great-grandfather was among them.

It's obviously rather lame - though probably predictable - that knowing one of my ancestors served in WWI has made it feel slightly closer to home, but I think that's probably for two reasons, really; firstly, reading about him and trying to track down further details of my great-grandfather has meant I've learned new things about events of his life (and indeed lifetime), which has made me more aware of them, and brought them to life for me.

Secondly, and less personally, I think it's often the case that we learn more or feel more about major events by looking at it on a personal or human level; for me, one of the reasons why Anne Frank's Diary Of A Young Girl is so powerful a document is because it speaks so clearly of emotions and feelings which we can all understand and relate to - fear and loneliness to name but two - and then, when you consider that her experience, and worse, was one which was shared by millions of people, it's like a punch to the gut.

So, in the past few months, I've perhaps felt a greater empathy for those people who are brave enough to fight for their country, and a greater realisation of how we owe them a debt we can never truly repay. In tandem with this, unfortunately, I feel a growing sense of anger that all too many politicians seem to see war as little more than a way to gain approval points or political prestige - many of the improvements in the country set up after WWII (such as the NHS and education) are constantly being whittled away, and it seems all too clear that all of the 'WMD' nonsense before the invasion of Iraq was simply that - nonsense - to justify going to war. I find myself wishing that the bravery of those who are willing to fight in wars was in even partly matched by honesty on the part of the political masters who put them in harm's way.

I respect anyone who's willing to fight for their country, as it's something I'm not so certain I could do. In remembrance of those who have fallen, and as a parting shot at those who seem all too willing to incite conflict, I'd like to leave you with a quote from Rudyard Kipling, specifically his Epitaphs Of The War:

'If any question why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.'

If you, or those you care about, have served in the forces, or are currently serving, I'd like to express my admiration and thanks - the comfort and safety of my daily life, I am all too aware, was bought at a high cost.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Multiplying Natures Of Villainy*

To my mind, one of the few disappointments in all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes tales is the introduction of his nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Professor James Moriarty first appears in The Adventure Of The Final Problem, in which Holmes is revealed to have been thwarting the plots of 'the Napoleon of Crime' for some time. Holmes and Watson flee England to escape retribution from Moriarty and his men. The two of them travel to Switzerland, and whilst walking near the Reichenbach Falls, Watson is called back to their hotel to assist someone who's been taken ill. This is a ruse, and when Watson realises and returns to the mountain path, he finds a note from Holmes saying as much, and that he expects both he and Moriarty will fight to the death. Watson sees signs of a struggle on the path, and concludes that Holmes and Moriarty, whilst fighting, have fallen to their deaths.

I'm summarising it there (and inevitably losing a lot of the original tale's skill and charm; if you haven't read it, I urge you to do so), but that's the general gist. It's not a bad story in and of itself, and it's pretty well-known that Doyle was trying to kill off Holmes in an impressive way so he could write other things, Holmes having become a millstone, albeit one which was a nice earner. The main problem - as opposed to the Final Problem - I have with it is that the introduction of Moriarty as Holmes's polar opposite, and his demise at Reichenbach, all occur within the one story. Whilst Holmes is portrayed as having been aware of Moriarty's nefarious ways for some time, the reader hasn't really had much chance to sense that an arch-foe is on the move, and though later stories build the mythology of Moriarty's wicked ways, we can only take Holmes's word for it. Well, Holmes's comments as reported via Watson through Doyle, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, I've been thinking about this recently because the novel I'm currently working on (more in my head than on the page at the moment, granted) The Body Orchard, features a return match between a deeply villainous chap and the detective who caught him last time. Part of the problem I've been mentally wrestling with has been that of establishing the stakes involved, and the backstory. I'm taking my cue somewhat from Thomas Harris's Red Dragon, wherein the reader hears much about Hannibal Lecter from his opposite number, Will Graham; Graham's portrayed as an intelligent if troubled man, whose references to Lecter make it very clear that he's a man who should never be underestimated or trusted, even for a moment. In much the same way as Holmes tells us that Moriarty's a baddie of the highest order, we learn about the villain from a character who we've already started to root for or empathise with. Granted, Holmes is less human than Graham, but I think that the comparison's a reasonable one. And there are other examples of characters, or events, being made portentous by more virtuous characters - Yoda's line "You will be" in The Empire Strikes Back, and the Doctor's look of panic at the end of the Doctor Who episode Turn Left, spring to mind, and I'm sure you can think of others.

So anyway, this is something that I've been mulling over recently - the challenge of making it clear that a villain is someone to be reckoned with, without having to show them running over blind orphans with a combine harvester. I'm feeling fairly comfortable with the solutions I've come up with, but now I have another question: since my villain is supposed to be so very clever indeed, how do I demonstrate that in a fashion that doesn't look token or unconvincing? Holmes and Moriarty were only ever as smart as Doyle, and Will Graham and Lecter as intelligent as Thomas Harris (and in the book Hannibal, Lecter appears to have lost a lot of his intelligence, but I was ferociously disappointed with that book, and I won't get into that now).

In exactly the same way, my characters always have the disadvantage of only ever being as clever as me, which - as is abundantly clear to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis - means that if I portray them as, say, walking upright or using tools, they're already pushing at the boundaries of my knowledge.


*With apologies to Bill Shaky (Macbeth Act 1, Scene 2)

I Said Goggle, Not Google

Neil Patrick Harris as Dr Horrible, and Jack Knight as DC Comics' Starman.

One baddie. One goodie.

And, it seems, one goggle supplier in common.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just How Decadent Is Life In London?

That's right, even the lampposts are made by Chanel.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Some Fireworks For Guy Fawkes' Night

I, for one, certainly see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.


(Pictures taken from our wedding firework display)


Sometimes I Read Things That Make Me Want To Shout "Yes!"

...This is one such thing.

In an interview for the Writer's Guild Magazine, writer James Moran aims a well-deserved kick at the groin of one of the most irritating and pervasive cliches about Doctor Who:

Question: Was it the old cliché of hiding behind the sofa as a kid?

Moran: […] while I did get scared a lot, I never hid behind the sofa (it was impossible, because our sofa was against the wall.) I don't know how all these people claim to have hidden behind their sofas as kids, unless they all lived in massive, Friends-style apartments with the sofa in the middle of the room. I suspect many of them didn't actually watch the show and are retconning their own childhood to jump on the bandwagon.


Mr Moran, I salute you.

What with this, and the fact that it's now known by an audience of millions that Daleks can go upstairs, it must be a hell of a challenge for a lot of journalists to write about Who nowadays, eh?

Sometimes I Read Things That Make Me Want To Shout "Yes!"

...This is one such thing.

In an interview for the Writer's Guild Magazine, writer James Moran aims a well-deserved kick at the groin of one of the most irritating and pervasive cliches about Doctor Who:

Question: Was it the old cliché of hiding behind the sofa as a kid?
Moran: […] while I did get scared a lot, I never hid behind the sofa (it was impossible, because our sofa was against the wall.) I don't know how all these people claim to have hidden behind their sofas as kids, unless they all lived in massive, Friends-style apartments with the sofa in the middle of the room. I suspect many of them didn't actually watch the show and are retconning their own childhood to jump on the bandwagon.

Mr Moran, I salute you.

What with this, and the fact that it's now known by an audience of millions that Daleks can go upstairs, it must be a hell of a challenge for a lot of journalists to write about Who nowadays, eh?

Monday, November 03, 2008

The IT Crowd: Watching The Defectives

As m'chum Steve has already recounted, on Friday night he and I went to see a filming of the Channel 4 comedy The IT Crowd. His post says a lot about the shows, so this is my more self-absorbed version of events (ahem).

It was a lot of fun, and the first time I'd seen a studio sitcom recorded in… hmm, come to think about it maybe it's the first time ever, so it was fascinating to see how it was all done. It was filmed at Pinewood Studios, and it was startling - in the best way - to see how the offices and other rooms in the show look in reality and on screen.

Steve and I were the guests of my friend Sean, who's IT Consultant for the show, so after Sean and the other cast and crew members had done the hard work, Steve and I stepped onto the set to help Sean with de-rigging, as it was the last show of the series. This felt kind of odd in itself - I've followed the show since it began, and so to be crawling round on the floor behind Roy and Moss's desks and helping pull cables through the wall made me feel like I wasn't quite in the real world any more (I felt like Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when he goes into Toontown).

Anyway, after we'd helped Sean do what was necessary, we were taken into the green room, where various members of the cast and crew were having a well-earned drink. Just inside the door, and looking surprisingly relaxed, was the writer-director Graham Linehan, who Sean kindly introduced me to, and explained to Graham that I'd contributed to one of the show's websites.

Graham - and I'm going to call him by his first name because he's a friendly chap and I don't think he'd take offence - asked us if we’d had a good night, and specifically what we'd thought of a particular scene in the last episode, and it was very interesting to see that he'd thought of an angle on it which I hadn't; very much a case of the creator being so in control of the material that he's able to see things which someone who's less steeped in it (me on this occasion) would miss. But he was friendly about it, and it was a genuine shame that I had to leg it early to get the last train home, as it would have been good to chat more.

I've barely touched on how funny the shows were - mainly because Steve's covered them in more detail, and also for spoiler-related reasons - but they were very strong episodes, and all in all it made for a cracking night out, and I'm mega-grateful to Sean for getting us on the guest list.

If nothing else, looking at the size of the sets, all the lighting overhead, the cameras and mics pointing at the cast, and the number of people who were hard at work, it made me even more keen to continue with writing, given that everything in that studio was there because once, Graham Linehan sat down and typed 'INT. OFFICE - DAY'...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Calling On The Tech-Savviness Of You Good People

Evening, all. I have two quick techie questions which I'd appreciate assistance with...

1. Does anyone know where I can get hold of the Russell Brand Radio 2 show as broadcast on Saturday 25 October? This isn't the show with the Andrew Sachs calls, it's the one after it, in which he alludes to the Daily Mail's nazi-sympathising past whilst apologising to Sachs, and strangely enough the BBC didn't release it as a podcast (and indeed they've removed all the old shows from iTunes and the show-related page from their website). As I used to enjoy listening to the podcasts, I feel I'd like to hear the final one by way of closure, so any links to appropriate locations would be very gratefully appreciated.

2. On a slightly more involved note, could anyone advise me how to set my 'From' address in Outlook 2007? I've got a number of e-mail addresses which feed into the programme, and I want to set it so that it shows a particular e-mail address as it goes out, and not the slightly less elegant-looking one which is the default setting. I can do it manually, but if there's a way to do it automatically, that would be handy.

If you know the answer to both or either of the above, you're smarter than I am, so if you want to share the wisdom around, please use the Comment facility, or you can e-mail me at ohJohnyoureallyarealuddite(at)johnsoanes.co.uk.

Thanks!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

National Novel Writing Month 2008

I've written about National Novel Writing Month here before, and crikey o'blimey if November hasn't come round again.

For those of you who haven't heard of it, the basic idea is - yes - that you write an entire novel in a month; for the purposes of NaNoWriMo (as it's known), a novel is anything upwards of 50,000 words, which works out at about 1500 words a day.

I've never really done it properly - I usually cheat and use it as a springboard to get on with a novel I'm already working on, and even that with mixed results - but I think it sounds like a great way to just get the ever-problematic first draft done, and there are lots of people around the globe doing it at the same time, which removes the isolation that often comes with writing.

It's based in the USA, but it's more International than National, with groups meeting up for 'write-ins' all over the place (there were definitely meetups here in London last year, for example).

So, if you fancy taking up the challenge, click on the link above to find out more - it costs nothing to participate, and all you need is something to write on/with and a willingness to be honest about your wordcount. I won't be doing it as I have non-novel writing (there's an ambiguous turn of phrase) to get on with, but if you do join in, let me know how it went - I know Laura's taking part, but are there any other takers?

NaNoWriMo runs until the end of November, so (glances at watch) you've only lost a minute so far (and we could attribute that to the time taken to read this post, right?)...