"As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder."~ John Glenn
Friday, May 24, 2013
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Artichokes scare me. I don't like the way the way they look, the way they feel or the way they taste. They are repellent and every one of them should be destroyed.
The reason...they aren't from this planet. Don't laugh. Take a real close look at these abominations. What 50's sci-fi monster movie didn't start off with something that looked like an artichoke? Show me one other plant that looks anything like an artichoke. The first time I cut one of these things down the middle to examine the cross section and it scared the crap out of me. Each layer of petals changes color from green to purple to expose the most frightening part of the artichoke--the choke itself. Don't tell me that fluffy, furry disc isn't designed to burst out and fly down my throat to take over my mind.
Touch one. I dare you. It doesn't feel like flora. Rub the petals together and it squeaks. It feels like rubber. That's a special coating to protect its alien flesh from our atmosphere.
I don't understand why people eat them either. They taste like ass for a start, boasting all the flavor of shoe leather. I think I must have different taste buds than everyone else. I taste their truth, while everyone else tastes their alien lies that with every bite contaminate you, infect you, control you. Because that's what they want ultimately--control. They need us, because they don't have legs to get around on. They might be smart and devious, but they're fallible. The Triffids learned this and so will the artichokes. Death to the artichokes, for they are our enemy. Kill one today!!
Monday, May 20, 2013
I’m the toastmaster for Bouchercon 2014 in sunny Long Beach, California. Bouchercon is the world mystery convention and it’s kind of an Olympics for the crime fiction community. There's no award for the 100 meters sprint, although if you're a criminal, a good 100m time would be an asset. I’ve not really talked much about it because I’ve been waiting for the organizers to come to their senses and get a proper grownup to emcee the event. It doesn’t look they're going to change their minds, so it looks as if I’m it.
I don’t take many things seriously, but I am taking this role seriously. First off, there’ll be over 2,200 people in attendance, so I’d better bloody give it the attention the role deserves. Secondly, I’ll be the 45th Toastmaster and I’ll be following in the footsteps of Harlan Coben, William Kent Kruger, Laura Lippman, Lee Child, Jonathan Gash, Reginald Hill, just to name a few. I have a strong tradition to maintain, so I need to be on my A-game. Thirdly, there's the 2014 Guests of Honor themselves to consider which include Jeffery Deaver, Edward Marston and J.A. Jance. They don't want dope fronting for them. Lastly, the organizers have put their faith in me by selecting me, so I owe a lot to them.
So what does being toastmaster mean? It means I have to keep festivities moving at the formal events, keep people in check if someone decides to act out and of course it means the big speech at the opening ceremonies. This is the icky part for me. Public speaking isn't something that comes natural to me and speaking to big crowds is kind of scary, but it’s something that I’ve had to develop over the years. Usually, my approach for speaking events is to have a topic in mind, talk off the cuff and stare into the stage lights so that I’m blinded by the fact that are people in the room with me. That won’t cut it for Bouchercon. I need to be considered. I have to follow on from the previous forty-four toastmasters. This has been the tough part. I’ve listened to a number of past Toasties (my slang for toastmasters) and they’ve all managed to put an original spin on the convention. I was picked for the Toasty job back in 2010 and to be frank, I’ve had no hook for my speech…
Now, I can’t go into details, but I will say no one has gone in the direction that I’ve chosen. So I feel I can hold my own with my predecessors. Phew!
Getting a handle on my duties couldn’t have come soon enough. The convention is little more than a year away and there's a lot of work I need to do and prepare for. There are a number of extra-curricular events associated with the event I’ll be involved in, some I can’t mention yet. One that I can mention is that I’m planning to take part in the Tour of Long Beach in May next year to raise money for the 2014 convention’s charity—the Long Beach Library. I’ll be pedaling for books or is it peddling books. I think it’s both.
Anyway, the clock is ticking and should be clearing your calendar in order to be there. If you need what’s what, go to the website. I expect to see you there.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
I kinda took the idea of apes rising up a little too literally, as I thought the film was more a pre-cursor to the inevitable and not an allegory about civil rights. I put the blame squarely at the door of the evening news. It was the 70's and there was plenty of unrest in South America, Europe and Africa. Kenneth Kendal and Angela Rippon were batting on about various guerilla uprisings around the world, but to my immature ears, I heard GORILLA uprisings. Oh my God, the takeover has begun. The gorillas are the marines of the primate attack. I just knew orangutans and chimps were the string pullers of the uprising and that there was a Dr. Zaius somewhere at the heart of this.
My misunderstanding received further support from the TV footage captured by embedded reporters. This usually involved shaky, long shots of AK-47 armed figures in a jungle setting darting across the screen with bandanas tied around their faces, no doubt to obscure the fact they were gorillas.
This led to a slightly awkward visit to London Zoo. I knew once the gorillas claimed a foothold in Africa and South America, it wouldn't be long before they swept through North America and Europe. And when they reached England, London Zoo would be their HQ. Guy the gorilla was the face of the zoo at the time, having been there since the end of World War Two. He was very old and I watched him wander around his habitat eyeballing all the humans that had come to commune with him. I made sure I gave him a deferential nod in the vain hope that he would remember and hopefully give me a cushy job instead of forcing me to work in the plantations in a loincloth.
I must admit that the rest of the world didn't seem too concerned by armed gorillas fighting various governments around the world. But hey, not everyone was blessed with the insight I possessed at age seven, apparently.
My fear of a monkey new world order ended a few months after I confided my beliefs to my mum as world tensions grew. I wanted to make sure she had stocked up on Kit-Kats and sandwiches when the big day happened. I remember some laughing at my expense--not cool--followed by an explanation of the differences between gorillas and guerillas. I wasn't quite convinced but I came around eventually.
Yes, you can laugh at me, but it just shows you the power of a good story, and in my defense, I was very young.
Monday, May 13, 2013
I don’t like discussing how many books I’ve sold. It’s boastful. I’m English. As a people, we don’t boast. But in the quieter moments of my day (usually around royalty statement time) I will tot up how many books I’ve sold. Not to boast (see the English thing), it’s quite a few nowadays. Not as many as I would like, but a lot better than I ever imagined. However, I find it hard picturing my readers. Say a thousand people buy a book of mine. By publishing standards, that’s not a lot, but you wouldn’t want to wait in line behind them for the toilet. So when it comes to things like this, you need a bit of perspective.
Ten years ago or so when my first book came out, I came up with a way of quantifying the number of people who bought my book. I chose NFL stadiums. The average NFL stadium runs what—80-100,000 seats? I liked to picture all my readers entering the stadium with a copy of my book under their arm. Yes, ambitious, but it gives some nice context. Unfortunately, sales for my first book wouldn’t have filled one section. Kinda sad, but I had a true sense of the physical size of my readership.
I’m happy to say that’s changed. In the last few years (and I do mean few), I’ve found a readership. Since 2011, my readers are just taking their first seats in their fifth stadium.
Can I be frank for a second? I can. Thanks. HOLY SHIT!!! That’s a bugger load of people. And even more frightening, that’s a bugger load of people I don’t know. There was a point when I knew every one of my readers. Not now. That’s an awesome feeling, but it also puts me in a cold sweat.
Excuse me, I have to leave the room for a second…
…Okay, I’m back. What was I talking about? Yes, readers.
I guess I’m a little freaked out because this has gotten bigger than I ever imagined and by the same token, this is serious business now. Writing is no longer a trivial pursuit. People expect a good book and I have to do my best to make that happen. It’s a little disconcerting to wrap my head around that.
Okay, time for a little more perspective; I’m nowhere near bestselling standards. Stephen King, Dean Koontz and John Grisham have each sold hundreds of millions of copies. That’s whole nations of people possessing their books. Now, that’s impressive.
But for me, I am, hand on heart, blown away by how many people have bought my books over the years. I’m grateful to every single one of you—and I promise to do my best to entertain you with each book and story to come. And for those who haven't bought a book, try one. There's a seat waiting for you in a stadium in my mind. :-D