Category Archives: personal post
I always wanted a pumpkin patch.
My earliest Halloween memory is of Trick or Treating with a hollowed out turnip dangling from a string that threatened to snap as the candle flame licked at it and my tender young fingers. Actual pumpkins were in short supply when i was a kid (back in the late 1800s). But they became easier to pick up as the years rolled by, and are now a seasonal staple in farm shops and supermarkets across the land.
My first attempt at growing my own jack o’lanterns took place two decades later in a tiny, urban garden in the heart of Camden Town, London. The soil composition was mostly thick clay and cat poo, so it was a miracle when one green little fruit appeared – and not at all surprising when it died a week later.
Fast forward another decade and here we are at Lee Cottage. It’s our second Halloween out here in the countryside (…the October Country, if you will) and as the Season of Mists fast approached I was more determined than ever to give growing pumpkins another go.
We started them off in my office, on the windowsill that gets the sun. I read M.R. James Ghost Stories to them to get them germinating, and pretty soon we had four viable plants. We planted the best three of them outside and, after a lot of feeding and watering and slug wrangling, got two lovely pumpkins per plant.
The smaller ones we ate in September (one roasted in a risotto, the other souped up) had a very mellow flavour. But October’s batch has ripened much more, with that classic earthy sweetness.
Our biggest, prize pumpkin will be carved up by our two little monsters today. I like to think my sons will, like their Dad, marvel at the fact that they are scooping seeds from a pumpkin that we grew from a seed.
And at this special time of year (when the cycle of life, death, and birth is embedded in our Samhain rituals and customs) i can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate than with a pumpkin plucked from my very own patch.
I always wanted a pumpkin patch.
Well, at long last i got one. And next year, it’ll be bigger.
Happy Halloween to you and all your pumpkins. Young or old, shop-bought or hand-cultivated, enjoy them!
Just popping out of summer vacation hibernation (or “writing” as i like to call it) for a quick blog post on the touchy subject of internet piracy.
I meant to post this sooner (but i’ve been writing, see above), following an interesting debate on Farcebook sparked by an alert sent out to a bunch of authors whose books were listed on an illegal download site.
For a long time, I’ve held the belief that people downloading my books for free were stealing from me and taking the food from my family’s table. (and look no further than Brian Keene’s impassioned, insightful post on this aspect of internet piracy)
But i was also painfully aware that piracy is inevitable in this day and age and could, in effect, provide a free marketing campaign for an author’s work. (who else but Neil Gaiman can sum this up for us so eloquently?)
Then author/filmmaker/all-round-mighty dude John “yer pal” Skipp showed me the way, and the light. He said (by the way I, ahem, stole the following quote from the aforementioned Farcebook debate thread):
The thing is: the first time I got file-shared, I went fucking ballistic. I got ahold of the perps, took out my psychic reaming tools, and gave them a good what-for. Once I was done screaming, they kinda shrugged and went, “Okay. We took it down. Didn’t mean to piss you off. Take care.” And by the end of the conversation, I felt kind of like the dad who finds his kids partying in the rec room and loses his shit. They didn’t actually break anything. They just got high and watched TV. I never liked that dad, and sure as shit never wanted to be him. And that’s when my perspective began to change. I guess what I’ve come to accept is that a lot of my readers are outlaws. You make outlaw art, you get outlaw fans. GO FIGGER! (John Skipp)
Outlaw books, outlaw readers. Hadn’t thought of it that way before.
And then Carlton Mellick III added (again, quote stolen from Farcebook):
Two things to keep in mind: 1) these people wouldn’t be buying your book if it wasn’t free. It costs you nothing, but you might gain a reader who might spread the word about your work or start buying your work in the future. 2) most file-sharers are also the biggest consumers. I admit that I download stuff all the time, but I also spend at least $1000 a month on books, movies, comics, video games, and mp3s…mostly by creators I discovered through free downloading. (Carlton Mellick III)
An interesting distinction. These people wouldn’t be buying your book anyway.
I took a peek at one pirate site and one of my novels has had over 1,000 illegal downloads. That would buy a lot of groceries for my family if the pirates were to buy those books. But they’re not. They never intended to buy the book, and if no pirate copy was available they still wouldn’t buy it either. They’d just go on to the next available title.
But now they’ve read it, maybe they’ll recommend it to others, leave a glowing/or damning Goodreads review, or (saints preserve us!) maybe even buy my next book.
That’s how it is now, so maybe we should all stop worrying and learn to love the pirates.
What do you think, me hearties? Yarrrr? or Arrrrgh?
Comments below please – i’d love to read ‘em!
Some kind readers (hello kind readers!) wrote to me in support of the Author’s Note (pictured below) I included in my recent horror novel The Jack in the Green - in which I highlighted the threat posed by the UK rail Project HS2.
In brief – HS2 is a high speed rail line that will cut through acres of ancient woodland, farmland, and communities – including those in Buckinghamshire where I am lucky enough to reside.
The initial proposals for the scheme made journey speed a key selling point: business travellers could shave off a massive 30 minutes or so if they travel via the high speed line. When many voiced their opinion that 30 mins of train time actually = 30 mins of uninterrupted work time, the scheme seemed to change tack, this time citing capacity as the new justification behind the project.
Now comes the bombshell that the rail line would displace thousand of graves – without the assurances in place that sacred remains would be properly relocated. I mean, haven’t these crazy HS2 people even seen POLTERGEIST?
My opinion (because everyone has one, right?) is that HS2 is designed, primarily, to make money for those behind it. Well, duh. It is a rich* man’s train (*for the financially rich, but spiritually bankrupt). I am utterly disappointed to see cross-party support for HS2 in UK politics – and feel especially betrayed that the Labour Party appears to back the project – so much so that for the first time in my life I cast my vote in the European Elections for the Green Party (among other, personal reasons). You see, I have just not seen any justification for the project that convinces me the environmental cost is worthy of the line’s creation. As with all things infrastructure, there is always another way (the clever folks at StopHS2 and HS2 Action Alliance have some excellent suggestions).
Sigh. I am aware that I’m just a local yokel author, banging on about this on his blog. What difference is that gonna make? Not a jot, of course. But there are things we little people can do to stop the goose-stepping forward march of ecological destruction. Maybe those of us who oppose HS2 are like Arthur Dent, trying to stop the Vogon Constructor Fleet in our dressing gowns. Maybe lying down in front of that bulldozer will be all the protest we have left – if, and when, the decision comes to decimate our wildlife and destroy so much that is green and good in the land.
But we have to bloody well try. And try we shall. In that spirit, I’ll sign off this post with one last video – this time from an inspiring young voice that should absolutely be heard – that of 9 year-old Midlands schoolboy Alexander Rukin.
And as ever, thanks for reading.
Doctor Who and the Daemons director Christopher Barry has sadly passed away. He famously helped introduce the world to the Daleks, but Daemons is my all-time favourite of the Time Lord’s adventures. Yes, I cleaved to a fuzzy, fifth generation VHS copy for many years (much of it in b/w) until the show finally became available on DVD. And yes, like many of ‘a certain age’, I devoured the Target novelisation. The BBC website posted a lovely obituary of this amazing, talented man – aside from his outstanding contributions to Dr Who, Mr Barry also helmed The Tripods (another childhood fave of mine) and many more.
Christopher Barry, I salute you – with five rounds, rapid.
The world is also a lesser place for the loss of filmmaker extraordinaire Alain Resnais. His Last Year in Marienbad has haunted me for years, and continues to do so. It was lovely to see his life and work so celebrated in memoriam this week. ‘Innovative and unusual’ just about nails it:
And while I was composing this blog entry, I was saddened to hear about the death of Selim Lemouchi. Frontman of one of my favourite bands The Devil’s Blood (and later of Selim Lemouchi and His Enemies), he was a fiercely talented musician who passed far too soon, aged 33.
I’ll leave it to Selim (with his sister Farida on vocals) to roll credits on these three blazing stars, who will all be missed by any who knew, or knew of, them.
Happy Horrordays y’all!
And it just wouldn’t be that time of the year without the Christopher Lee Christmas Message.
Take it away Sir Christopher of Lee!
Here’s to a stonking 2014.
A strange phenomenon has swept the planet. In a plot twist that defies time and space, it is now kind of cool to like Doctor Who. As the world over seems to be going batshit mental in anticipation of the special anniversary episode, i’ll just take a moment to pause and reflect.
It wasn’t always this way you see – as many folks of a certain age will know, being into Who used to be something you kept very much under your wide-brimmed hat.
I am an (unearthly) child of the 70s, so “my” Doctor was Tom Baker. I admire each of them of course, and especially Jon Pertwee who starred in my favourite ever Doctor Who adventure ‘The Daemons’.
I was lucky enough to meet Tom Baker many years later during my London Dungeon days in the mid 90s. He is a giant of a man and he bellowed his ideas for bringing out a live victim for the Theatre of the Guillotine show with that mad, brilliant glint in his eye.
I remember watching, lump in throat, as Baker’s Doctor regenerated into Peter Davison’s incarnation like it was yesterday. A new generation of fans will experience that powerful feeling of optimistic loss soon enough when Matt Smith’s Doctor regenerates into Peter Capaldi’s.
I met Doctor the Fifth, too, many years later at a party and recounted how i’d once seen him at a telly shoot when i was a kid. I remembered being astonished that the Doctor ate sandwiches! “He eats!!!” Mr Davison laughed. Like all the actors portraying the Doctor he came across as a charming and thoroughly likeable man. Those qualities are probably what has kept the character and show going for a staggering 50 years.
Well, that and the rubber monsters.
(See, we Whovians knew they were cool all along)
Happy 50th, Doctor!
There it is then, the first book i ever bought and read on screenwriting. It was written by Syd Field, who has passed away aged 77.
If you told me back then that i’d someday be teaching university classes using some of Field’s theories i’d never have believed you. But then i’d never have believed it possible that i’d be a produced screenwriter either, if not for the inspiration i gained from Syd Field and his book.
Today, i raise a cup of coffee in salute to the man who was such a legend that he even had ‘PLOT PNT’ on the license plate of his car.
Syd, you were one of a kind and you’ll be missed. Here’s to you.
Happy Halloween dear f(r)iends!
Plenty of Tricks and Treats for you here, in Count Frazula’s Halloween Playlist:
(Spotify) Halloween Playlist 1 – Count Frazula
And here’s my favourite of the latest Halloween viral videos (thank goodness the characters in my tales aren’t this sensible! HELL NO!)
I live in the UK, in the leafy county of Buckinghamshire, and (as anyone who has read my books will know) I derive a lot of inspiration from the local landscape. Eagle eyed readers familiar with my neck of the woods will spot my local Christmas tree plantation within the pages of ‘The Jack in the Green‘ and the dank passageways of Hellfire Caves in the third act of ‘The Lamplighters‘. I was out jogging this morning on the steep sylvan slopes of ‘The Lucifer Glass‘ and it reminded me how much inspiration I glean from the places I frequent (it also reminded me how out of shape I am after long hours behind the writing desk, but that’s perhaps another story).
It was Fathers’ Day here in Blightly a few weeks ago, and my family and I decided to pack a picnic and head out in the drizzle somewhere. As it was ‘my’ day I got to choose the destination, and so I opted for a place that has been something of a lifelong icon for me – Hampden House.
Hammer Films took (eek!) possession of the building in 1979 and made it the company’s base of operations until 1982. During that period, Hammer moved into telly and filmed several episodes of Hammer House of Horror and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense in and around the building and environs.
As a youngster, I was raised on a strict diet of Hammer Horror movie double bills. Later, at the tender age of 11, it was the turn of the TV series to creep the hell out of me, especially the episode with the gnarly-fingernailed hitchhiker…and the werewolf episode complete with pregnant wolf-mother scoffing chopped liver as she drove to the obligatory house in the woods.
As we sat opposite the very house that appeared in those hallowed opening titles, eating our sandwiches in the rain I realized how lucky I am to have such amazing, inspiring places on my doorstep.
So join me in raising a plastic Thermos cup of lukewarm tea in a toast to a little inspiration.
It goes a long way.
What are the places that inspire you, and why? Comment below please!
I had the rare pleasure of drinking with Mr. Banks on a few occasions and enjoyed being set straight on a couple of things by him. We laughed a lot about my then favourite word, “cuntstruck”. Then he was away for his beloved kebab.
A lovely man with a brain the size of several planets, the man and his brilliant work shall be sorely missed. By one more than all – his wonderful wife Adele, my dear friend and The First Lady of Horror, to whom i send all my love and hopes and booze x
At time of writing, Michael Gove is still breathing. No justice in this world.