Sunday, December 31, 2006


Here's some interesting figures I picked up. The first figure is the advance paid out, the second is the number of books each sleb has actually sold:

Dave Blunkett -- £400,000 -- 2,000
Gary Barlow -- £1,000,000 -- 50,000
Johnson Beharry -- £1,000,000 -- 20,000
Rupert Everett -- £1,000,000 -- 20,000
Ashley Cole -- £250,000 -- 4,000
Michael Barrymore -- £300,000 -- 5,000
Chantelle -- £400,000 -- under 5,000
Shayne Ward -- £200,000 -- under 5,000

I'm sure with a little more digging I could unearth some more emabarrassingly huge advance/book sales gaps. Whilst there's little doubt that the British public have an insatiable appetite for sleb biogs and magazine-styled tittle-tattle, it's getting very clear that publishers are more often than not losing money - hand over fist - on a lot of these high-profile deals.

Whilst I'm unlikely to mourn for publishers- after all, they're grown ups, they know what they're doing - it does annoy me that they can allow themselves to be fleeced so obviously. I have visions of some naive, vulnerable young schoolboy being mugged for his lunch money when I hear of yet another superheated auction over some Big Brother contestant's biography.

It annoys me because the huge dent that a really duff sleb biography deal puts in a publishers' profit curve can mean a tightening of belts; less money to spend on finding new talent, less money available to market midlist authors.

Yes...I'm biased, I have an agenda, of course I do. I'm a new author. The future of my career is as uncertain as anything - depending pretty much on the sales of my debut novel. Luckily the early signs are good, thus far. But life as a writer would be far less uncertain if huge wads of cash weren't being haemoraged on flavour-of-the-month sleb biography deals.

I could moan all day on this subject you know. I could whinge about how a bubble-headed sleb's passing whim to write one of those 'book thingys' means food taken from a dedicated writer's plate. I could jibber on about the insatiable greed of celebs, having made their millions acting, singing, dancing or whatever - seeking to squeeze another trunkful of easy-money out of the book world...but I'll refrain.

Just say this though. It's sort of reassuring to know that so far my debut hardback has outsold five names on that list above; and that's without any poster campaign, front of store promotion, three-for-two deals, or anyone even knowing my name.

I say that not to sound cocky, (ahem...actually, reading that back to myself, it does sound a little cocky) but to help illustrate the point that a humble unknown writer like me can be a far better return on investment to a publisher than some dittohead sleb taking a final bite at the apple on their way down to z-list status, and eventual anonymity.

Friday, December 22, 2006


This is a blast. I stumbled on it today, and found myself losing a couple of hours messing around with it.

It just goes to show, it's the really simple ideas that can go ballistic and make a huge impact. Doing a little snooping around, there are thousands of websites devoted to this little game. I'm not even aware yet how long it's been doing the round on the internet, but given how quickly things can take off on the net, I wouldn't be surprised if it's only been around for a few weeks.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


This was a game I designed for the Gameboy. Sheeeeh, designed this one, eight years ago now, so it was for the GameBoy Advance. It's called MANAMANIA. Basically a very lightweight strategy game. The idea was you have four 'bases' (see the cauldrens?) one for each competing wizard. The wizard needs to amass 'mana' which comes from collecting naturally sprouting crystals and dropping them into his cauldren. Using this mana power then (see the very slim, yellow, mana power bar on the left...and the spells beside it?) the player can cast funky spells on the enemy wizards.

One of the must-have spells was 'hatch-a-gelf', which makes these cute little helpers who will automatically go and harvest the crystals for you, leaving you free to concentrate on zapping the enemy.

The game idea was instantly catchy, and at my boss's request I went on to do designs for a PS2 version. Sadly, it never passed first base with any publishers. I really would loved a game like this on my Gameboy, easy to get, strategic. Instead, for many years the Gameboy had only really awful licence-tie ins, Mario-kart, and Sonic. It's different now...there are some very good, absorbing, dare I say 'grown up' games on the Gameboy. Hell, you can get Sudoku on there now, which just goes to show there are a lot of older gamers carrying a nintendo around.

Manamania was one of my favorite stillborn games.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Another game that never went anywhere was one I worked up a demo of with a friend, outside of office hours. It was futuristic racer set in a living, breathing city sort of like Bladerunner. The really cool idea though, was that you'd use an editor to make your own city, sort of like the game SIM City; placing towers and shopping centers etc etc And then, you'd hop onto your hoverboard, and race through it.

The racing part of the game was slightly different to the usual run-of-the-mill racing game in that your vehicle, the hoverboard, could only power you along for a few seconds before needing to be recharged (arguably it was solar powered). So you'd have to rely on the cities thermal currents. These could shoot you up the vertical wall of sky-scraper and then you'd be able to glide down to earth, picking up speed truly insane speed coming down. So, the racing tactical-play was all about looking for those updrafts.

Anyway, we got the editor working quite nicely. I produced a variety of city tiles, futuristic sky vehicles and ground cars. But we never got round to doing much more than that before we ran out of time.


I was just going through my old hard-drive and tidying up some things, and stumbled across my portfolio of CG work. There's a ton of it, from 12 years working as a computer games artist.

The last three or four years I worked mainly in designing and rapid-prototyping game proposals. It was a small team, me and a shit-hot programmer...and our job, doesn't get much better than this really, our job was to think up really cool ideas for games, and speedily produce a quick, vaguely playable sample of it. That would then be taken to a big game publisher and we'd pitch the idea to them.

So I thought, it might be interesting to any readers out there who do partake in a little gaming to see images of some games that oh-so-nearly went into full production, but for the decision of a corporate bean-counter...and who knows, might just have gone on to become a huge hit, another Tomb Raider, another Rome TW, another Halo.

These three images were from a proposal based on the movie WestWorld. You know the movie, right? Yul Brynner as a robot gunslinger whose circuits are fried by a malfunction in a robot theme park. etc etc. We designed a game where you play a maintenance bod, armed with some gadgetry, whose task it was, was to rescue theme park guests, whilst fighting all manner of robotic foes; gunslingers, knights, orc, dragons, aliens. We had some cool zones like 'Horror Zone' and 'History Zone' and 'Movie Zone' (movie zone was cool, because there'd be loads of vaguely recogniseable Laurel and Hardy robots).

Anyway, I hastily knocked up a some damaged gunslinger robots, some maintenance bunkers and drafted in some extra artists to throw together a wild west street and my programmer partner wrote enough code that you could wander around have a simple gun fight with them....and quite a cool gimmick of the game - target a robot and directly control it, for a limited time.

We pitched it, and this one, nearly....oh so nearly got greenlighted.

Friday, December 15, 2006


It's one of my pet hates, it really is. It's just...nnnnghhh...just a moment.

Okay, I'm good...another breath, yup I'm better.

Celebrities - I'm talking about all those X Factor starlets, Big Brother Bimbos, Kiss-n-tell girls, Ex-boyband dropouts, and all the other z-list dittoheads out there. It's bad enough that most television bandwidth is filled up with these montrously vacuous morons, but in recent years they've started swamping bookstore shelf-width. I mean those biographies are one thing, but now....oh these eeejits are ''avin' a go' at writing novels.

I don't know what hacks me off more; the fact that these pampered airheads are stealing business from the mouths of kosher authors (you know, the dull people who don't whip their kit off on some reality show, who've taken years and years to learn the craft etc etc), or that they think writing a novel is a piece of piss...

...sumfin to ave a go at, know wot I meean?.....init.

It smacks of rampant selfishness and egotism, and flagrant contempt for books in general, that the likes of Naomi Campbell, Britney Speers, Katie Price...think they can casually dust off a typewriter and bang out a novel over a couple of Sunday afternoons. I mean fer crying out loud, they've already made their millions, but no that's not enough. No...they've also got to go and steal potential book sales from the like of us.

Actually I don't know if it's these bubblehead celebs, or the publishers - that prostrate themselves before them and splurge huge sums of hard-earned profit for the privilige of publishing their inane witterings - that anger me more.


Am I sounding bitter? I needed to get that off me chest. Better out than in as they say. It's know, I can just about handle the idea that Jordan and Andre have had something vaguely interesting enough happen to them that it's worth putting into words in their autobiographies. But it's when these dunderheads cross the line, and start believing they can do anything...write a bestselling novel, compose a rock opera, invent a cure for cancer....ahem....act. That's when I find my hackles rising.

Uh now look...I've come out in my's all up my arms and across my neck. I need to go lie down somewhere dark, and play some lift-music in my head.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


There's been a lot of talk about that recently, stirred up mainly, I think, by two things; the acquisition of Ottakars by Waterstones, and Google's plans to digitize every book ever released.

I mention the Wottakars thing, because I suspect that move is probably a sign that bricks and mortar book selling is entering its final phase, as Amazon continues to sweep up most of the trade, and the likes of Tesco and Asda take the rest.

Amongst the pros in the business, there's talk that atleast two of the five link chain (Author-Agent-Publisher-Retailer-Customer) will either vanish or merge in the next few years. And it's obvious who those two contenders are, isn't it?

I can foresee the likes of Amazon and Google buying up publishers, and in the first instance publishing printed books, sold over the net, and later on, digitally downloaded.

The latter stage requiring a must-have digital reader to be designed. And I'm sure it'll be Apple who get in first with an I-read....something easy on the eye and delightful to hold.

IMHO, the big question is: how quickly will this happen? I don't know, however, if a book equivalent of the Ipod arrived on the market tomorrow, it would certainly act as a catalyst.

Friday, December 08, 2006


The last year has seen some seismic movements going on in the world of entertainment. What with YouTube appearing from nowhere overnight, and now everyone knows about it. I mean, blimey...first I ever heard of YouTube was four months ago, I think. And then there's all the social networking sites, MySpace, Bebo, and then there's Google preparing to totally digitize the book world.

The landscape in the last twelve months has changed completely, and the future, well it's going to be very, very different for all of us. Perhaps the biggest change for us will come when broadcast entertainment collapses, and I think it will pretty soon. Advertising revenue is vanishing quickly. It's finally become known to the big advertising spenders, that people spend far more time arseing around on MSN, grazeing through YouTube videos, or pushing around solitaire cards, than they are watching TV.

That money's now going elsewhere. And all those stations derive the largest portion of their revenue, by far, from advertising. In theory, they should go bust pretty soon, and with fingers crossed, SKY will crumble in on itself....thank god.

Leaving of course, only one major broadcast entertainment supplier; the one that DOESNT rely on selling us easy money (even if we have CCJs and a terrible credit record), or selling us sugary toxic fruit drinks for the kids, or selling us cars and holidays we can't afford...

Yes, I'm talking about the BBC. The one with the protected revenue source, the licence.

My hope would be that, now, no longer having to chase ratings to compete with those brash, noisy, crappy, ad-infested, trailer-trash digital stations...and thus, through neccessity, dumb down their content - we might once again see the return of quality TV from the beeb.

That's my hope.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Well, I finished editing LL today. I was in Starbucks as per usual, with my Estima black and a muffin, and put the final finishing touches to this version of the tale. It's been quite a substantial edit....much has changed with the conspiracy backstory, and there have been some shifts of emphasis on the three main character's travails.

I've also changed the ending in a way that should deliver an emotional climax that stays with you. It's one of my pet hates, particularly with thrillers, where the good guy sorts out the bad guys and thwarts their evil the nick of time. I've never understood why thriller writers stick to that template. It robs your tale of any tension whatsoever if you know the hero will ultimately always win....where's the sense of jeopardy? So...there is tension here in LL, somebody dies, somebody we get close to. I'm not saying who, but I'll say this....I honestly didn't know who it was going to be until the very last page.

Now, this has got to get past my agent and editor first. I'm not sure what they'll make of that. I think it's an ending that will stay in the reader's mind, they may well think it's too upsetting. We'll see....

Anyway, I'm done for now. There'll be another final pass when we approach the proofs stage.

Onto the next project - a screenplay. Something I'm working with my bro' on. I want to get a first draft in the bag before xmas.

And then after xmas, I really have to start thinking about the next goddamned book! Got some ideas, but they need a lot of gestating.