2015: Being Pro and All That

2015 was the year I celebrated my first year as a professional writer. This was a dramatic career change after fifteen years as an engineer. Ultimately, my only regret was that I did not begin freelancing sooner.

Whilst most of my writing projects were journalistic, I also performed some copy-writing for the BBC on their Regional Personality Differences project. I also started writing for Computer Weekly, covering security policies and software implementation. Other new clients have been SFX and Ars Technica, although I am still waiting for my articles to be published. The year also finished on a good note, with me winning a commission with the Independent.

One of the highlights of this year was interviewing Professor Freeman Dyson as part of my article Will we ever build Ringworlds? for the BBC, I was also fortunate enough to interview Lee Majors and later Patricia Tallman for SFX’s Afterlife column. As I was on the phone to Pat for nearly an hour, I was able to gain enough material for a second interview with Geek Pride.

Meeting Dana Fredsti for the first time at the Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction group.

Meeting Dana Fredsti for the first time at the Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction group.

I finally met LA author Dana Fredsti in person, four years after I first interviewed her. She was a special guest for the Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction group, where she gave a reading followed by a Q&A session that I hosted.

In March I attended the Sci-Fi Weekender, where I interviewed Kevin Cottam for I am a Jedi; my first lifestyle article for The Guardian. This was later followed up by many in the national press. Whilst there, I was also invited to host the kaffeeklatsch (a series of author interviews), where I interviewed Raven Dane, A.S. Chambers and Bryony Pearce. I also attended Birmingham Comic Con, where I met up with Virginia Hey, again. I also managed to attend Yorkshire Cosplay Con, Edge-Lit and EGX.

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Interviewing Bryony Pearce at the Sci-Fi Weekender

Despite the journalism focus, I continued to develop the first draft of my debut novel, which has already garnered interest from one publisher.

Read, Watched and Recommended.

I cannot begin any recommendation without commenting upon Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Caelia and watched it on our date night shortly after it was released and thoroughly enjoyed it. Without giving away any spoilers, The Force Awakens harkens back to Star Wars: A New Hope, with its chase through the new setting and a return to the grungy ‘used’ feel of the original trilogy. There were a couple of plot points that were left unanswered, but hopefully there will be explained in the sequels and/or an extended-dvd release.

One film that stood out was Mad Max: Fury Road, which offered a stripped-down plot and a vibrant palette that is unlike the current slew of post-apocalyptic films in cinema. Another surprisingly fun film was Olympus Has Fallen, which could have easily been ‘Die Hard in the White House’, but managed to retain its identity and was a fun – if not entirely believable – action film.

I was not optimistic when I first heard of Gotham, as I was almost expecting ‘Batman: The Early Years’, but the first season has been brilliant. Gotham combines comic book tropes in a police procedural drama, which sounds ridiculous but works incredibly well. One of the reasons it does work is that the series is played completely straight and the characters are incredibly compelling.

This was the year Caelia and I finished watching the final season of Burn Notice. Whilst the series has evolved from its original premise, and the storylines became gradually darker, it was the characters that drew us back each season. Jeffrey Donovan and Gabrielle Anwar were great as Michael Weston and Fiona Glenanne respectively, but it was Bruce Campbell’s dry witticisms as Sam Axe that stole the show.

I read a ton of books this year, but it was Fool’s Assassin that stood out for me, as Robin Hobb returned to my favourite characters of hers, namely Fitz and the Fool. My only disappointment about the novel was when I finished it and I consequently broke my promise of never giving a 5-star review. It was that good.

Other books that stood out for me were Jenny T. Colgan’s Resistance is Futile, which was a brilliantly geeky tale of love, friendship and the complete obliteration of mankind. Another of my favourites this year was Jennifer Government – an excellent novel by Max Barry about mass-privatisation. Meanwhile, Rebel Heroes, by my old friend Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, was a fantastic exploration of music’s icons. Unfortunately, I read it on holiday, where I could not access Spotify to listen to the music he referenced.

Amongst the current popularity of grimly realistic graphic novels that I read, Ms. Marvel was a cheerful breath of fresh air about regular girl from New Jersey becoming a super hero. The fact that she is Muslim is almost an after-thought, as the appeal of the character stems from her delightful exuberance.   Meanwhile, Bryan Talbot’s anthropomorphic graphic novel series Grandville continued to remain a fantastic read with Bête Noire and Nöel.

Telltale Games dominated my video game playing this year, with their episodic interactive-storytelling games Fables: The Wolf Among US and Game of Thrones being the highlights of my year. For me, much of their appeal stems from me simply being able to relax in the evening with a gripping storyline that I could influence, without having to rely on hair-trigger reflexes.

As part of a friend’s birthday I saw Camelot: The Shiny City, which was an impressive piece of immersive theatre. As well as being a great story told through the interplay of the characters, the play explored the concepts of patriotism, nationalism, radicalisation and myth-making.

Life, the Universe and Something.

The big news for Caelia and I was that we are expecting our third child, who is due sometime in March. Thus, much of this year has been spent decorating the children’s bedrooms in preparation. Admittedly, Caelia did most of it, as I have been banned from DIY…

LARPing with Ada the pirate.

LARPing with Ada the pirate.

2015 was also the year I celebrated my fortieth birthday with a helicopter flying lesson that Caelia surprised me with. Flying a helicopter is unlike any other vehicle, as they are such responsive machines. However my inexperience was more than made up by voraciously watching Airwolf during my formative years. Maybe.

I took Ada LARPing with me again at the Lorien Trust events in Locko Parks. It was great being able to do something with my daughter that we can both enjoy. Next year, my little boy Michael will be joining us in the field and Ada has already been showing him how to use a shield.

Once again, I took the family on holiday in Wales, this time based in a caravan near Llandudno in North Wales, where we spent the week exploring the local castles and the ancient standing stones in the area.

Back to the Future

So, 2016 is already looking busy, with two articles for Computer Weekly and another for the Independent due in the New Year. I will however be planning in a bit of paternity leave for March!

I am also planning to finish the first draft of iSpy over the Christmas period, as well as begin working on a comedy/spy spec radio script. I have tried to write non-humorous fiction before, but it just feels false.

Ultimately though, I will keep putting one word in front of the other until I hit the end.

Winding down with Darth Elvis and the Imperiams at the Sci-Fi Weekender in March.

Winding down with Darth Elvis and the Imperials at the Sci-Fi Weekender.

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