Monday, 30 August 2010

Mr Blog

So. Aliya's treatment is apparently coming on well (see this old blogpost if you've no clue what I'm talking about), but as she readies herself to come back into day-to-day living, I've been advised to steer clear, so I'm off to the Whiteley motherland for a break at the end of the week, while she road tests her new-found sanity.

Elsewhere, the app update is 'in review' and should be with iPhone owners soon in all its Foylesy goodness.

For those of the Twitter persuasion, or not even, I'm currently over on PC Advisor of all places, talking about my work there.

And in lieu of my blog-mate's wit, I'll let someone else do the amusing stuff. Readers, I give you, Mr Blog.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

First night nerves

I am very much enjoying Beth and Emma Kilcoyne's Roger And Val Have Just Got In (a new sitcom/play thing going out on BBC2 at the weekends at the moment, with Dawn French and Alfred Molina, for anyone unfamiliar with it).

Beth has a nice blogpost over on the BBC concerning the first night of broadcast.

Sorry the player doesn't fit properly on the blog.

In other news, the update for The New Goodbye app has been submitted to the App Store, along with the snazzy Foyles partnership stuff. Should be live in a week or so.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Looks like we hit 88mph...

Heh, just read this in an interview I did back in 2004 where I was talking about Fragment, the PDF magazine I was editing at the time (heady days indeed--this was around the same time Aliya and hooked up). How's this for Back to the Future, from a Kindle owner now helping develop a magazine app for the iPad:
"Tell me about Fragment. And, does its kind represent the beginning of the end for the printed word, in both book and magazine form?
"...that depends on technology. I'm not much of a hoarder, so if someone devised a handheld book-sized piece of kit that had the same legibility and durability as a book, then I'd undoubtedly get one. My house is small enough* as it is without hundreds of books clogging up the shelves. Publishers are certainly keen. The Guardian is in the final stages of beta-testing its digital edition and many fiction houses offer sample chapters of their books in PDF format on their websites. But at the moment it's still much more comfortable to read from the page than the screen." 
* I now live in a bigger house but the point still stands. 

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Good luck, Ian

Ian Hocking, an excellent writer, who's had the representation of a respected agent for over four years, has recently come to the difficult decision to give up on fiction writing.

Lots of writers--and lots who are far less talented or technically proficient storytellers than Ian--say they cannot live without writing. That it makes them sad or puts them into emotional turmoil. I'm not one of those sort of writers. I can see myself coming to a point where I could give up on serious fiction writing as Ian has done, if I don't taste that success. I can see other aspects of my life positively benefiting from this, both family and social life, and at work, but for now I will keep on keeping on. But I completely understand where Ian is coming from.

Rather than telling him he's doing the wrong thing, or that he's a quitter, I hope other writers can recognise the amount of soul searching this decision will have taken, and realise too that it's the cut of the pack that has meant Ian hasn't found a mainstream deal or a publisher to champion him, rather than a lack of talent or of interesting stories to tell. As well as being a talented writer, Ian has also done well--far better than most--in promoting his work, something that I know from personal that for someone with a level of integrity, as Ian no doubt has, can leave one feeling a little tawdry. But without this, he wouldn't have had reviews in national newspapers or blurbs from best-selling authors

Please do stop by and wish him well on this new start.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Islands in the stream; strawberries and cream

Last week Scott Pack mentioned on his blog that he’d taken a couple of location-specific books with him on holiday to the Isle of Wight.

I too am off on holiday soon, and not that I’m lucky enough to be heading to a tropical island—last time I looked south Devon was neither tropical, nor and an island—but I’m just finishing up with Robinson Crusoe (on the Kindle, Tim) and have also indulged in a hardback copy of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet, which I’ve lined up next. It’s a coincidental quirk, but, without having read The Thousand Autumns… etc.  I’m assuming there are similarities between it and Defoe’s classic, both in historical setting and in the situations the lead characters come up against. In other words, they are complementary books.

So what I’m getting at, in a roundabout fashion, is asking you this: What two books would you recommend that go together like strawberries and cream? (I would say like peas in a pod, but don’t want to set Aliya back any steps on the road to recovery.)

The only rule is recommended books aren’t allowed to be by the same author, or a second author picking up characters from the first, a la Wide Sargasso Sea or Roger Morris’ Inspector Porfiry series.

PS Talking of Scott, Happy Birthday Bookswap.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Music videos, bookshops and iPhones

So, while Aliya's undergoing some serious rehab (see my previous post), I thought I'd give you an update on what's been happening during my prolonged absence.

First things first, the nice chaps at Order have recently finished the music video for The New Goodbye. And for those who don't have an iPhone, here it is in all its stop-motion goodness, featuring the stock still acting talents of Mr Rich Watson.

The New Goodbye - Music Promo from ORDER on Vimeo.

In other news, I am due to deliver the science fiction novel I've been working on for most of this year to an agent by Christmas. Which means if I want to run it past Aliya first, I'll need to have it done by November. This is coming along nicely, so shouldn't be a problem, and it's a really nice project, so that's exciting.

But perhaps more exciting is that Foyles are partnering with me for the first update of The New Goodbye app, offering discounts, store coverage and event tickets to anyone with the app on their iPhones. More on that one soon of course. For now, I'll leave you with the dulcet tones of Mr Watson.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Great Escape

I have made good my escape, but can’t believe you all accepted Aliya’s word of what had been happening to me. I suppose the last blogpost I wrote, about being tasked with a secret government mission concerning vegetables, which was made under threat of being buried alive in a pile of potatoes may have helped suppress any feelings of suspicion, so I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt.

But rather than a Playmobil version of Heaven, I have been through Hell. Hell I tell you.

Several weeks ago I feel unwittingly into a trap set by Aliya and her family, who had undergone some kind of group trauma resulting in them all believing the key to the world’s salvation will come in the form of vegetables.

I was invited to their house under the pretence of trying a new recipe Aliya had arrived at due to an odd mix of ingredients in her latest veggiebox delivery. They had far too many tomatoes, and as we all know, not being a true vegetable, tomatoes are things Aliya has little truck with.

I was as much a fool in going as you have been in believing the warped Playmobil fantasies she has been playing out on this blog since my capture. (Incidentally, anyone who knows me would be aware that I’d never write iPhone with a capital ‘I’, even with the inconvenience of U’s for hands and no discernible fingers to speak of. What’s more I feel my reputation as a stern, joyless misanthrope may have been irrevocably tarnished by the ‘Neilio’ sign-offs Aliya used in her fake missives.)

So how did I make good my escape? Ironically, I turned Aliya and her family’s own vegetables against them.

As close readers of this blog will know, Aliya’s hubby is a military man. Recently he—rather than I—had been tasked with a top secret government mission concerning vegetables. But not just any vegetables. Oh no. We’re talking GENETICALLY MODIFIED VEGETABLES.

These are strange, triffid-like creatures that grow in the space of days rather than weeks. During my imprisonment—which, if you’ve ever read The Collector, you’ll have some idea of how Aliya treated me—the only times I was allowed out of doors unsupervised was to tend the GM vegetable patch. This was a sorry scrap of earth (these GM foods will grow pretty much anywhere) surrounded on three sides by fifteen feet high sheer concrete walls, and on the third side by the sad entryway to the stairwell leading down to the cellar where I was kept.

Having overheard conversations concerning a new fridge freezer that had to be ‘just so, for you know what’, I knew I had to at least attempt to escape, even if I was destined to die trying. My plan was simple, but, as you will now realise, given that I’m here writing to you, effective.

I planted my next batch of seedlings in a carefully considered pattern, so that when they had grown to their full size—within a matter of days, the mutants!—they would spell out a rescue plea for me. To whit: Help! Nutters Have Me Locked Up And Are Making Me Grow These Weird Super-Sized Rhubarbs. Send A Shrink.

Although this was quite a lot of veggie-text to fit into the small courtyard, I felt I needed to add something more, to illustrate the urgency of the situation. So did. PS Please Hurry. I Think They’ve Got A New Fridge Freezer On Order.

Now all I could do was wait. Three terrifying days passed. I had a real scare when that leaflet about the second hand fridge freezer came through, but as luck would have it I was granted a reprieve. And with just minutes to spare my rescuers arrived. As I was airlifted to safety by the Waitrose helicopter, I could see a white goods delivery van had parked up outside the house.

As soon we landed I called my good friend Professor Robert Winston and asked for his advice. He picked me up in an armoured truck and we were straight back to the military base, although it petrified me to be there. I needn’t have worried though. Bob’s crew of trained SWAT Psychiatrists had soon overpowered what little resistance was offered, mainly by Aliya armed with Munchie’s Supersoaker 3000 and a dressing gown belt tied round her head.

I’m pleased to report that the Whiteley family are now ensconced in a high security rehabilitation unit in Milton Keynes specialised in the treatment of vegetable obsessives, and are generally making good progress. Aliya’s therapy mainly consists of exposure to Rorschach images resembling squashed tomatoes.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Postcards From the Veg: Heaven

Uh oh. You know something big is going down when an angel appears in your bathroom while you're flossing.

So there I was, with the little piece of white string still wrapped around my index fingers, when a portal opened above my shower curtain and a being of light and grace popped out. You could have knocked me down with a feather. He/She/It (hard to tell) handed me a golden scroll, gave me a wink, and tootled off to more important matters.

It's bad news, guys. Brace yourself.

Dear Vegemites,

Mourn me not! For I am not dead. Well, actually, I am dead in the very real sense of the word, but it turns out there's a heaven and it's ACE! A bit like Butlins in a zoo but with room service. I've been given a lovely chalet with a real fireplace and an en-suite. I'm not even having to share, as there's no shortage of space given that this is a metaphysical state of being rather than an actual country. Marvellous.

So yes, you didn't save me from the desert island and Roary ate me. But I don't want you to feel bad about it. Life is just too short to spend in regret. However, I wouldn't like you to feel too good about yourselves either. You didn't really try to help, did you? And I'm not just talking about helping me. I'm talking about helping each other generally and being nice and good and kind and stuff like that. And growing more vegetables. It turns out growing more vegetables is the key to world peace. No, I'm not allowed to explain why. It has something to do with allotments, that's all I'm saying. You have to work it out for yourselves.

And so I bid you farewell. Ta ra. So long. Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you. Live long, and prosper. Or don't. I just hope you get lucky enough to be allocated a chalet next to me at the end of it all. I have to go - the synchronised swimming competition is just kicking off.

Angelic hugs,


Goodnight, sweet Playmobil Prince. We will miss you.

I wonder if he gets a reincarnation option. He probably wouldn't take it, though, what with a real fireplace and synchronised swimming, right?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Postcards From The Veg: Desert Island

I was enjoying a lovely day out at Woburn Safari Park yesterday. There are elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, monkeys, and swans. Well, giant swan boats, in fact, and while I was dabbling around in the water a small green glass bottle clinked against the side of my own sturdy little swan boat. I picked it up and examined it. I guessed it had once contained Becks beer, by the remnants of the label, but now it was home to a rolled piece of paper. A message in a bottle! How utterly exciting! And quite strange, given that it was in a boating pond in land-locked Bedfordshire.

Guess what was inside. I bet you can't guess. Go on, have a try. A wild stab in the dark. No, just have a go. Oh go on, go on, go on... yes, okay, it was the latest postcard from Neil on his travels around and above the planet. Sheer luck brought his latest ramblings to me. Funny how the world turns, innit?

Dear Vegemites,


I don't know where I am. Well, I'm on a desert island, dear readers, but as to which one I have no clue. Re-entry into the atmosphere didn't go as smoothly as one might have hoped for, and I was lucky that my capsule crash-landed near to this place. Roary the litte polar bear and I managed to swim to shore, and have found a cave and some fruit and a football that we've nicknamed Wilson for the hell of it, but no humanity. Not a single person. Not even a signal on my I-Phone.

Actually, it's quite pleasant.

At first I was confused from clinging to a floating barrel for two days with only a hungry and annoyed polar bear for company, but things are really looking up now. With nobody around to cock this place up, I can honestly say it's a small patch of paradise. Did you know banana trees grow fruit all year long? Amazing. Roary adores the yellow flesh, and I'd imagine he's the first polar bear to discover the joy of slipping around on the discarded skins. He enjoys himself immensely, sliding first one way, then the other. Marvellous.

But now I really would like to get back to espressos and Doctor Who (has a new series started yet?) and sugar free gum stuck to the pavement and all the other great things about England, so please come and find me. Please. Before Roary gets any bigger and decides that his diet needs meat in it.

So, hoping this is au revoir and not farewell forever,


Eek! What shall we do? I'm hopeless at Geography.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Postcards From the Veg: In Orbit

While I was in Devon buying surf-wear and eating pasties, Neil was having yet another adventure of his own. He's a brave one, and his murderous tendencies seem to have worn off for the time being. Which is good news for Astronuat Jip Tuckerer, who showed our very own intrepid traveller around space. Not all of it, obviously. Just the teeny bit of it above our planet.

I don't know how Neil is funding this adventure. I-Phone sales of The New Goodbye must be doing pretty well, huh?

Greetings vegemites!

Thank goodness I packed my NASA space pen! Or there would be no postcard from this location, that's for sure. I'm in space, orbiting the planet in the top secret, privately owned SpaceRace laboratory as they conduct fruit-related experiments to try to find answers to the world's many problems. Leading the way is astronaut and top fruitarian Jip Tuckerer, who explained why the SpaceRace lab maintains orbit over the Himalayas.

"When satellites' orbits degrade through malfunction, the same thing always happens; they end up caught in a constant pattern over one part of the Earth - the Himalayas. This effect, caused by stuff that is too complicated to explain to anyone without a degree in astrophysics, is known as the Himalayan Gravity Well. And we at SpaceRace have been looking into utilizing that effect to human advantage. But first we must truly understand it.

How did Newton begin to formulate the theory of gravity? He turned to the lowly apple. And if it's good enough for Newton then it's good enough for us. We have been throwing an apple a day into the Himalayan Gravity Well for the last two years and monitoring the results. Interestingly, the only solid result we have so far is the disproving of an old aphorism - since I myself have four PhDs it can definitely be said that an apple a day doesn't keep the doctor away! Ha ha ha."

Jip allowed me to release apple number 675 from the airlock. What an honour. Next time you think of the Himalayas, think of my little piece of fruit above it, and all the other little pieces of fruit - evidence of the effort that are constantly being made to unite the world in peace, harmony and understanding. Wow. Although how they will manage that remains to be seen, but let's not be picky right now.

And so, until next time, keep eating your five a day and give the sky a special wave.


I can't say I liked the sound of Jip Tuckerer much. Still, what a very interesting subject. Yeah.