Thursday 31 March 2011

The end of hair shirt month

I'm happily taking off my hair shirt today and locking it away for another couple of years. The shirt's not had much use recently as the last time I wore it, it only got used for an hour, although on the other hand I did once wear it for several years... perhaps I should explain. Radiohead have a new album out.

I don't follow modern music much any more, although a combination of Radiohead, REM and Elbow all issuing new material presents a rare opportunity for me to listen to something new. But of all the bands I listen to, the gloomy ones have always provided me with the most hair shirt moments ever since their second album came out and it failed to deliver the melodic, indie rock I'd expected from their first album. This led to me locking myself away to listen to the Bends for several dozen times trying to work out if I liked the new sound, which I did eventually. And this is a ritual I've enjoyed doing every few years since. The shortest hair shirt period was for In Rainbows which I liked on the first listen (still worries me that) and the longest was for Kid A, which took several years of navel gazing before I became depressed enough to enjoy it, and which is now my official favourite album.

As for the latest King of Limbs, I was going to review the songs, all of which I'm pleased to say left me non-plussed on the first few dozen listens. But then I made the mistake of reading a review to get a feeling of how it'd been received. The review used the words dichotomy and juxtaposition in the first sentence and, frankly, I can’t compete with that, so I'll stick to saying I like it now. It features good chilled-out music to play in the background while doing other things like thumbing through the dictionary for the definition of dichotomy and juxtaposition, while being gloomy of course.

Friday 25 March 2011

Cryptic Friday #6

Last week's question was: Took a ride round the Wild West show. 5 letters.

The answer is... Rodeo.

This week is a slightly harder one:

Saddle will take the horse around midnight. 5 Letters.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Dressing for Breakfast

I recently discovered the delights of Channel 4's on-line service 4OD in which they offer many of their past programs for free although you do have to suffer the same flaming adverts again and again and again. So for the first time in 15 years I've just watched the largely forgotten 90s sitcom Dressing for Breakfast. I've deemed it to be largely forgotten as google failed to show me anyone who had been moved to write about it and so I thought I'd redress the balance.

Dressing for Breakfast ran for 21 episodes over 3 series in the mid 90s and I'm guessing it was pitched to the station as being Women Behaving Badly, being a female take on the popular BBC sitcom Men Behaving Badly. The result was a series that featured strong female characters and a format that I reckon inadvertently provided a template for many of the sitcoms that have come since, although none of them captured this show's easy charm.

The main character is Louise (Beatie Edney) who at 30 finds herself single and not happy with that status. For help in getting her life sorted out she has two guides: her best friend Carla (Holly Aird) who is in a stable but boring relationship and who is always on hand to provide jaundiced support. And her mother (Charlotte Cornwell) who can always be relied upon to bolster her confidence in that peculiar mother / daughter way that only goes to destroy it. The stories are always slight, but they feature witty dialogue and enthusiastic performances from the cast. Unlike many shows of this kind the, shall we say, adult nature of the conversations and subject matters always manage to be witty and relevant to the plot rather than smutty and designed to be shocking.

The show is also one of those shows that is a connections nexus. There's that game Six Steps to Kevin Bacon and I can’t help but think that Six Steps to Dressing for Breakfast would work just as well. Just about every bit part actor in the show is someone who has appeared elsewhere in things I've watched. So, for instance, a young Philip Glenister appears as Louise's boyfriend playing essentially a young Gene Hunt from Ashes to Ashes. This comes over as odd because Louise's annoying friend Rose is played by the actress who was Alex Drake's mother-in-law in Ashes while the creepy bloke in the flat next door was the creepy clown in Ashes. Stuff like this can drive you nuts.

As for the show itself, unusually for the time (and since) there is some continuity between episodes with on-going stories and plots that develop over the years such as her mother's failed relationships and a doomed love triangle. This means the show has the time to cover some not particularly funny issues such as bereavement and infidelity. Of the three series the first is perhaps the best. It's rough and awkward but it has charm whereas the second series is slicker, but spends too much time on new and annoying characters. I'm undecided on the merits of series three where clearly the success of Friends led to a rebranding with the mother disappearing (bad move) and the emphasis changing to being a wacky flat sharing comedy.

Despite numerous faults, this show stands up well today, and so now I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can find on 4OD. I'm guessing not much.

Friday 11 March 2011

Cryptic Friday #5

Last week's question was: Have the police party gone to the ship? 7 letters.

The answer is... Possess. (please don't ask why)

As that one was pretty tricky, this week is an easier one:

Took a ride round the Wild West show. 5 letters.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Well, it is for charity.

In Britain we have our fair share of worthy television charity events that do great work in finding employment for celebrities nobody has ever heard of. But this year, two minutes into a mildly amusing dance routine in a Comic Relief dance competition, I amazed myself by smiling. For me it was like seeing Laurel rising up from the dead to poke Hardy in the eye for one last time.

I've enjoyed Ade Edmondson's career ever since Rik Mayall first hit him over the head with a frying pan back in the 70s when they were The Dangerous Brothers. Later, Ade's comedy evolved in The Young Ones when Rik would set fire to Ade's pants while hitting him over the head with a frying pan. Later still, his comedy evolved further in Bottom when Rik would break Ade's legs and set fire to his pants while also hitting him over the head with a frying pan. And then finally, the comedy reached its logical end in the Bottom live shows where Rik would superglue himself into a blow-up doll, break Ade's legs, set fire to his pants and still manage to hit him over the head with a frying pan.

But then they got too old to play themselves and they split up. So Bottom fans were left to wonder whether Ade would ever get hit over the head with a frying pan again for just one last time... for old time's sake.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Beaten into Kindling

The excellent anthology Beat to a Pulp (featuring one of my yarns amongst one hell of a lot more) is now available for download on Kindle at Amazon for the amazing price of $5.99.

Sunday 6 March 2011

So...… what is a story?

I was guest blogger for the day at the Avalon authors blog with my article on writing So... what is a story?

Friday 4 March 2011

Cryptic Friday #4

Last week's question was: Capture her with love. 5 letters.

The answer is... Lasso.

This week is a lot more cryptic (and by that I mean that I struggled to get it even with all the other clues filled in):

Have the police party gone to the ship? 7 letters.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Dragon time... honestly

And so it came to pass on the 3rd of March, 2011 that the author George RR Martin did announce that the publication date for book 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire would be July 2011. And there was much joy in the world for verily we fans have been waiting so flaming long we've all completely forgotten what the heck Tyrion and the lads were up to.

Good news though. Hopefully Book 6 will appear in my lifetime!

Tuesday 1 March 2011

The Prairie Man cover

Below is an advance sighting of the cover for my forthcoming Black Horse Western The Prairie Man, which amazon are claiming will be out in August.

If you've read my previous comments about covers, you'll know that I'm always pleased when a cover depicts a scene from the book or captures a feeling of the story or title, and so in this case I'm especially pleased. For a start it's a Prieto Muriana cover and that means in the full picture there'll be plenty of extra details, but even better, the simple scene does actually happen in the story. Now, I know it's hard to write a western without having a scene featuring 'bloke on horse' but in this case there is an important moment in the story that has been effectively depicted. In fact I hope readers might like this moment as much as I did and then glance at the cover...

More details on the book nearer the publication date.