Thursday, 26 November 2015

In Memoriam: January 2015

Year End Memoriams for January 2015 (and a few from December we only found out about once New Year had passed...)

As with years passed, we take the time to remember those who have left us in the previous twelve months.

(Note - All quotes are italicised and sourced to their authors, except Telegraph obits, as they don't credit their own writers. As in previous years, this is a non-profit memorial with quotes used strictly for critique purposes.)

To repeat the drill, for those new to this:

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Bond Themes

It was just the other day that Justin Jessel and a number of others suggested I do a blog on James Bond. Actually, it was... five years ago. Blimey, I can't even blame Acts of Toddler for that delay.

The Bond films are ripping yarns which have lasted fifty-three years and counting. Six actors have played James Bond, each with their own takes, nuances and fan bases. Every style of film has been invoked, from classic cold war spy flick to even horror and fighting genres.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Unreal Estate and Touching Distance, Available to Buy on The40p

October has seen two new stories added to The40p.

"Unreal Estate", by Jon Kaneko-James, is the first in a series of stories about Susanna Courting, a female paranormal investigator in the style of Algernon Blackwood's John Silence. In her debut, she aims to help a man haunted by a clock which threatens to destroy his entire livelihood. Philip K Dick would no doubt tell you: clocks are bad news, you never know what's hiding in them. Courting's work takes her to the heart of the mysterious Ministry, and there is a terrible price to pay for helping the haunted businessman.

Kaneko-James is a historian in much demand these days (and works at the Globe Theatre in London) so we were delighted to be able to snag his talents.

I said it was the first. I hear there are more to come, thankfully.

There is also "Touching Distance" by Vaughan Stanger. This is a story with great echoes of Ray Bradbury at his best, as a blind man undergoes a scientific test with the hope of helping to pioneering a breakthrough in restoring sight. Unfortunately, there appears to be a ghost in the machine. A pedestrian who shouldn't be there. A gremlin, perhaps? Or is it a haunting from the past?

Stanger is a former astronomer turned writer with over a decade of credits to his name, including A Walk in the Woods in Interzone ("An innovative yet profoundly sad evocation of the transition from the vitality of Nature to the anaemia of virtual reality." wrote Locus reviewer Nick Gevers), and 2015's A Walk in the Rain, published by Postscripts. Postscripts was the original home for Touching Distance back in 2006, we are delighted to be able to republish this fine story.

You can also read our previous published work:

"Love You, Sweetie!" by Michael S. Collins - revenge from beyond the grave

"Thrilling Air Stories!" by Jim Steel - a failing marriage, balloons, and a world war!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Introducing: The40p

My new fiction market has been launched. The40p is so named because every story published sells for 40p (or more, if the buyer so wishes, no writer turns down a gift horse in the eye after all).

You can find us here.

Submission are now open, here are the guidelines. They'll be getting tweaked over the next week as the current length doesn't show up too well on mobile devices. Basically, we'll take any genre (including non-fiction) if its well written, and the only outright No-Nos are abuse and fanfic.

You can follow us on twitter @the40pdotcom.

Alternatively, we have Facebook and on Linkedin. We shall soon have pages on all the main social media sites.

We also have two stories. One by yours truly, "Love You, Sweetie!", about a murder, revenge and a ghost from Celtic mythology. When I picked an old legend to base the tale around, I managed to somehow luck upon one my folklorist wife hadn't heard of.

However, we were delighted to welcome on board Interzone books editor Jim Steel. "Thrilling Air Stories!" is a typical Steelian tale, where the average person in the street rapidly finds themselves completely at sideways with reality. This one involves a failing marriage, balloons, and a war zone.

We hope you enjoy!

Friday, 8 May 2015

This blog is currently on hiatus until further notice.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Election Forecast

[Naturally, all of the below is wildly and idiotically out of date now. A good example of what do I know?]

There are thirty-two days until the next UK General Election. An event which brings up the psephologist in all of us. And by all of us, I of course mean me.

Now, you might see many predictions on how the election will turn out, throughout the press, based on a thing called Uniform National Swing. Or, as David Butler used to sum it up for the BBC: "If the rest of the country went as (Place), then the results would be..."

And UNS suggests, or gives voice, to the idea that David Cameron will be back in Number Ten throughout the rest of the year.

But is it that simple?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

50 Greatest Royal Rumble Moments

If December has Christmas, then January has the Royal Rumble.

It's no secret I am a big wrestling fan. Every January, the WWE has the Rumble, a 30 man staggered entry battle royal. Two men start off, every two minutes another man (or sometimes, woman) enters the fray. Entries are by a random (to the fans) draw, so no one watching knows who is coming out next. It is every man for himself, so any friendships or partnerships go out the window for this one night. Folk are eliminated by going over the ring's top rope and having both feet touch the arena floor. And the match continues until one person is left, who wins a title shot at their biggest show of the year, WrestleMania.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Things They Don't Warn You About

On Sarah's first birthday

A list of things they don't warn you about...

1. Wee kids are smart. Very smart. The adult who goes "Oh, they don't understand/can't do X" usually swiftly finds themselves outwitted in a very public manner. From the moment Sarah was born, she was outwitting expectations of her. She was twelve hours old when she got her mittens off for the first time, and the chorus in the ward was "She's not meant to be doing this yet!"

2. Child proofing, in combination with Point 1, is an oxymoron. Put things up high, Sarah will reach them. Put them in another room, she will get to them. Put up childproof locks, she will unlock them. The safety gate lasted a while longer, but she has now worked out how to get it loose enough to escape... by unscrewing the bolts.

3. An escaping crawling toddler is very adept at the last second Cryuff turn when being chased - complete with parent crashing into things. On the other hand, this usually stops Sarah as she is too busy stopping to laugh at the scene!

4. Crawling is very fast. Sarah can traverse the entire flat in less than ten seconds. Usually followed by a "weeeeeeee" excited noise.

5. A child above the normal learning curve doesn't rest on its laurels. I foolishly thought that Sarah, having picked up crawling at 9 months, would enjoy that for a bit. A week later, she stood for the first time, a day after that she took her first step. Within six weeks, she went from rolling around the floor to walking around the sofas. She's currently trying to talk steps unaided, which so far have resulted in sudden meetings of mind with the carpet and hugs from mummy or daddy. But the more she achieves, the more frustrated she seems to get at the stuff she can't do. Patience may be a virtue, but not yet, seemingly!

Reminds me of the time my Aunt was driving us home from a family gathering, me in the back seat with Sarah in her car seat, and aunts son. The son was talking about how he'd hate to be a baby again, all that stuff you could think of but be unable to do and need help. Sarah turned to him, sighed, and nodded.

6. Coupled with this impatience and vast intelligence, there comes the great delight in proving you've outwitted your elders. A feat of, say, technical engineering to grab Dad's juice, well beyond the usual limits of your own age, usually has Sarah conflicted: she wants to make way with her ill gained deeds, but also wants everyone to notice and praise her ingenuity!

7.  That you will wind up watching the World Cup with a six month old, engrossed. Or Doctor Who, despite the fact she got put to bed well before each week, and each week, she managed to wake up just in time. Online fandom can say what it wants about In the Forests of the Night, Sarah was entranced by it.

And watching an eight month old argue back to the Doctor never ceases to be amusing!

8. The cheeky grin.

9. That time you watch the buggy walk past you, only to see Sarah is using it to stand and has walked across the middle of the room using it for support.

10. That first time she smiled.

11. About two seconds later, when she realised she could use that to great effect.

12. Baby laughter is funny. Toddler hysterical laughter, the equivalent of someone watching a three hour Billy Connelly marathon, is contagious. Sarah being the first fan in recorded history of my jokes...priceless!

13. That when a child has you marked as the Soft/Fun/Not Disciplinarian Parent, and you tell them off for naughtiness  they give you this betrayed look, as if to say "But, we're comrades!"

14. The moment when you are awoken by a wee person saying, loudly, "Dada! Dadadadadadadadadada!" with a big grin.

15. Some/most children have trouble weaning. But you might wind up with a Sarah, who took to weaning like an arsonist takes to the A listed buildings of Strathclyde. Sarah could eat three courses and still aim to try and steal everyone else's food. When she was six weeks old, we were at Aunt Marions, I was feeding Sarah. A plate of sandwiches came over to me, and a hand reached out to grab one. That hand was somewhat smaller than mine, and it took Mandy a few seconds to clock it! An earlier incident involved Sarah handing her bottle to her Auntie Cat, and in the other hand trying to grab Cat's cup of tea!

16. They will fall for kids TV shows you find hideous. Like Mr bloody Tumble. And when you moan to your own parents about it, they will look sagely, mention "Timmy Mallett" and laugh. But Timmy was high drama, not this, of course. You have officially become old!

17. She will take to books. Very quickly. Reading books to child will, before you know it, turn into her handing you the book, only to then try and read it to you.

18. Some books she loves, you will learn by heart, so that, if, say, she decided to look at the illustrations on the pages out of sync, you could still read the book from memory. Hello, Neil Gaiman and Cho's Day.

19. The first time someone is mean to your child, the surge of rage that runs through you, "How dare you be mean to my baby!"

20.  Affectionate headbutts. Loving hairpulls. Adoring teeth pulls. "Just checking to see if you are teething, Dada!"

21. The first word. "Mum" in Sarah's case.

22.The next 450 words. "Mum" also.

23. The time period in which she was building up to saying "Dada", nearly getting there, and you didn't want to jump the gun on social media and go "OMG! SHE SAID DAD! MELTING EVERYWHERE, GUYS!"... only for everyone else to jump the gun!

24. That you have to learn to say a firm No. To members of your own family who think they are doing everyone a favour too.

25. A firmer NO, a few months later, with the first tantrums. Those were Sarahs, not her family.

26. That she will use you as a climbing frame.

27.  How bloody knackering the entire thing is.

28. Related to the last point, how much fun it is too!

29. You will never realise quite how many mannerisms and ticks you have until a little person starts to copy every single one of them.

30. That even when they can't talk, they are very good at getting their point across.

31. That you go in one year from "AAAAAH BABIES RUN AWAY WHERE'S THE RESPONSIBLE ADULT! OH NO, THAT'S ME! AAAAAAAAAAH!" to "Stand back, I can do this, I'm a dad."

32. How they progress, in the space of a year, from new born to wee person, complete with her own hobbies, sense of humour, etc etc. And throughout that time, even early days in, you sometimes watch her, watching you, and there's this strange look on her face. It takes you a while to work out what it is, because its not one you tend to see, unless you are some mega famous George Clooney type or Batman, and I am not the Batman.

It's adoration.

Then you think, who is she adoring? There's no one else in the room but us two. Oh blimey, she's looking lovingly at her dad. What did I do to earn that? "You exist". "Do I?" "Yes, you are my joint favourite person, alongside Mummy, Auntie Cat, and Iggle Piggle!"


But then...

33. At one point, kids seem this far off neverwhere place. Then you find out, one is coming. Then, one arrives.

I was banned from the hospital for the whole birth and time in there, due to the triple virus I had last New Year. So the first time I met Sarah, was her first day home. Cat carried her up the stairs, lifted her out of the travel seat, and sat her down on my lap with a "Sarah, your Dad. Michael, Sarah. Hi!"

3 day old Sarah and I stared at each other with a look of horror.

Then she lifted her hand slightly and put it on top of mine, as if to say, "Don't worry daddy, I've got your back here."

And at that moment, you realise she has moved permanent residence into a spot in your heart, from first meeting to the day you breathe your final breath. My littlest mischief bear!

And now, one year on, on your first birthday, who knows what further mischief will be unleashed before time?

But I do know I feel really lucky. Because Sarah already shows the smarts, the intelligence, the determination, to do anything she wants to be in life. (And we wont stand in our way, but you knew that already) She's a very special wee girl. And of all the people on the planet, only one person was ever able to call themselves Sarah's dad. That's me.

It is a huge honour and responsibility.

But one loves it as much as one loves her.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

2015 Glasgow Buildings Deadpool

"Historic Scotland has been very lax in keeping these buildings safe, but at the end of the day there is nothing they can do. The listing system is ineffectual as well. The council is just playing the system because if it lets the buildings fall into disrepair they will fall down. There is some legislation but it is difficult to enforce. They leave it lying long enough and the city council say it is dangerous and has it demolished. Springburn Halls is the most recent example but will not be the last. If they were Mackintosh buildings, there would be an international outcry. We make the most of the city's buildings through maintenance, repairs and insurance, with City Property managing and bringing to market as appropriate around 30 listed buildings classified as surplus."
Gary Nisbet, Evening Times, January 2013