Friday, 23 December 2011

Write away!

Season's greetings folks! Most of you would most probably have got all your presents together by now (although you there, yes, you with the glasses, are you sure your mum wants an umbrella for Chritmas?) so it's time to settle down in front of the warm fire for a post on the trials and tribulations of writing.

As mentioned on my previous post, this 'holiday season' I'm writing a Sherlock Holmes story, original to me but, the initial idea was, to be inspired by a reference of an untold case in the Holmes Canon (if you've read them, you'll know what I mean; one of the most famous is 'the giant rat of sumatra' which Watson tells us 'the world is not prepared for'). However, as with everything I write, the actual writing bit fills me with apprehension. It's terrible and completely illogical but I feel I have to plan it out a great deal before I write a word, I suppose, In case I write something and decide I hate it and then will be sent into a melancholic sob about the state of my writing. It's illogical because, if you're interested in writing you'll have no doubt heard this sentence, writing is all about rewriting. So my first draft won't ever be perfect so I might as well go and put pen to paper (well, finger to key; I've always planned to start writing first in notebooks then write up in neat on a computer because - anyway, that's a whole other kettle of fish).
But, I am determined to get over this detrimental habit of mine. I'm trying to set myself the task to write something everyday (that's a silly thing to do at this time of dear, really, as several days in the next couple of weeks will be filled with family visits or catching up with friends). So far today I have scribbled stuff on screen and paper and have come up with a (in my opinion) good plot and plan to strt writing tonight! After blogging, of course.
What sparked my thinking about how I write was a couple of excellent blog posts concerning advice on writing and some illusions wannabe writers have about the profession. A lot of it is really quite sobering stuff but is fascinating nonetheless. These are Paul Cornell's (the writer of the excellent Doctor Who episodes 'Human Nature/ The Family of Blood') Top 40 things to know about writing and James Swallow's (who wrote the wild west Doctor Who novel 'Peacemaker') Twelve harsh truths about writing.

I'll have to start worrying about these things a lot more in the future but for now it's Christmas! Time for eating several too many mince pies and playing board games and watching Christmas telly. You enjoy yourselves, make sure to watch this year's Who special at 7.00pm on Chrimble Day and I'll be back blogging after the big day.

Bonne Noel!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Melting Man

By Jove, what a suprise! While rooting through old Word documents on my laptop, I came across this; an abandoned opening to a Sherlock Holmes story. See what you think.

The Adventure of the Melting Man

From the Reminisces of Dr John H. Watson M.D.
Of all of our incredible cases that have threatened to break a man’s view of the world, few have been as singular as the affair of the death of the eminent author, Vincent De Lacey.
The year was 1887 and it was a bitter February morning. The rain hammered on down on the cobbled streets of London with terrific force; I pitied any poor soul misfortunate enough to be out in such a storm. Fortunately, I was inside 221B Baker Street in front of a blazing fire Mrs Hudson had lit for us earlier that day. My wife had gone to visit her sister for a short period so I had temporarily taken up my old lodgings with my dear friend, Sherlock Holmes.  Holmes was busying himself on the opposite side of the room with the morning’s papers, reading through his favourite agony columns.  In my particularly comfortable armchair, I had begun to doze but a sudden call from my friend woke me:
‘Watson, look sharp, there is a poor young woman making her way towards us.’
I went over to Holmes and discovered he was peering out of the window. Soon, the door to our room was opened by Mrs Hudson, who led in the sobbing, soaked young woman Holmes had foreseen.
She was a simply delectable creature, her golden brown hair, carefully gathered under her hat, was beautiful if considerably wet from the rain. I instinctively lent the girl my seat in front of the fire and knelt down beside her with a comforting pat on the hand.
‘My dear child,’ began Holmes with a gentle smile. ‘You must be in dire circumstances to travel to us on such a day. Pray, when you have composed yourself; tell us what troubles you so.’ 
‘I’m sorry to trouble you, Mr Holmes, Dr Watson, but I don’t know who else to turn to. It’s my father. Last night, he was fine, as jovial as ever, but this morning –‘ The young woman relapsed into her outburst of tears.
‘Carry on, my dear,’ I soothed. ‘What happened?’

‘When I came into my father’s chamber this morning, he had simply melted. away.’

And that's all I did. I'd largely forgotten about and am actually quite impressed by how I portray Watson's 'voice' in the piece. And the 'favourite agony columns' part completes fathoms me now, but must be a reference to Holmes' tastes within the real stories. The idea of the Mystery of the Melting Man has been with me for awhile and eventually found life in some form as a (very) short story I entered into a Crime Writing competition (you can read it here). It's an idea that I still think I can do something else with so I may come back to it again in the future. What I'm definitely doing, or at least planning to, is to write a Sherlock Holmes story this Christmas, proisionally titled 'The Phantom of Vortigern House'. So watch this space!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

The Power of Twitter

Ah, Twitter. Ever-reliable Twitter. You can always count on the loveable, massively popular bird-themed social network to distract you, especially when you have something due in presently (as does your truly; ssh if we won't mention it again, it might go away). You may even tweet solely about twitter distracting you - perhaps the most ludicrously way of time-wasting which I hope I haven't sunk to yet. Social networks are a drug. And I - as are so many - am addicted.

It's terrible to admit but it is true. Thankfully, I'm not as bad as some people who, largely self-confessed which is good, check twitter and tweet with much more ferocity than I do. Columnist Andrew Collins thought it was for 'stalkers, narcissists and people who talk to themselves'. I'd like to think I'm none of the above but, you never know, I may be all three.

However, despite its perhaps sole purpose as a distraction machine, I love it. It strangely satisfying when you clip your thoughts down into a (hopefully) witty nugget of 140 characters. Plus, celebrities have it so it's a good way to see what they're up to. And, occasionally, you may even get a tweet back from them. I once get a reply from Mark Gatiss when I asked him a question about his Who episode (more words than I said to him in person, in fact) while my sister recently was tweeted by Russell Tovey.
However, despite its witty chatty appearance, Twitter and other social networks -it's not alone in this - have a dark side...

As brilliantly shown in Charlie Brooker's recent opener to his new Black Mirror series (a Twilight Zone inspired anthology series), Twitter - or more accurately the collective thoughts of the mass of people who use it - can control what happens in the 'real' world. In the aforementioned episode 'The National Anthem', a popular royal princess is kidnapped and the ransom states the Prime Minister (a clear Cameron pastiche but well-played by Rory Kinnear) must... do something thoroughly abhorrent and embarrasing on live TV for the princess' safe return. Whether or not he goes through with it is largley based on how people are reacting to it on Twitter and other such sites, due to the government's constant reliance on public opinion. I'm deliberatly witholding details from you as if you ever get round to watching it I have no intention to spoil the surprise. If you are interested you can watch it here.

Of course, at this moment in time Twitter isn't distracting me from my work but Blogger is. Yet I didn't blame it. Cue Twilight Zone music.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A blog for Christmas cheer!

Just to start us off - I love Christmas! Truly I do. I think it has something to do with all the memories I retain from childhood; when Christmas was a HUGE deal. There was never a more exciting time of the year when you're a kid. Christmas TV is woven into the fond memories too; the adverts, the usually awful comedy specials - even those '100 greatest...' shows C4 used to churn out. I would have mentioned the now great tradition of the Doctor Who special but that didn't come around til I was 13.
Talking of Christmas TV, it has been confirmed that the first episode of Sherlock Series Two will be broadcast on New Year's Day! For anyone, who doesn't know, it's a modern-day version of the classic Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemia, now titled 'A Scandal in Belgravia'. However, as anyone who has seen the fabulous series will know, it won't be a straight adaption.
Christmas movies are also an important part of the season. There's the classics that everyone should watch - It's A Wonderful Life, Scrooge and Miracle on 34th Street - and also modern favourites like the eternally lovable Home Alone (the sequel's just as good, the third is passable but please do not subject yourself to No.4) and the brilliantly irreverent Gremlins. Personal favourites include Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas for its sheer creative spirit and a Christmas never goes by where I haven't seen A Muppet's Christmas Carol - what? Don't look at me like that; it's really good.

This Noe`l-themed nostalgia fest has been sparked by a saunter through Winchester High street which, regaled in bright Christmas lights, brim-full with busy Christmas shoppers and topped off with a giant tree in its centre, really felt very festive. Here, here Winchester for getting into the spirit!

Yeah, I know it's blurry but I think it has a certain effect. 

In terms of writing this 'holiday season'. I'm currently tackling with the idea of Christmas Sherlock Holmes adventure. Yes, I know Holmesians out there will point out there is indeed a Holmes story set at this time of year (The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, which sees a priceless jewel found in a Christmas goose) but I've been planning to write a proper Holmes story for ages and I thought there's no better time than the present. Plus, with the Guy Ritchie movie and the return of the Moffat/Gatiss series it's going to be a very Holmesian Christmas anyway. I'm planning it as a full, original Holmes short story in the style of Conan Doyle - the current idea is for it to involve a haunted house but that is subject to change. I'll keep you all posted.

And so all there's left to say is, in the words of the First Doctor in a fourth-wall breaking Who episode in the 60s; 'A very merry Christmas to all of you at home.'

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