Tag Archives: movies

Podcasting empire

I’ve been podcast for over seven years now and the landscape has changed dramatically in that time. When we started not many people really knew what podcasting was and the number of podcasts and people listening was a fraction of what is today.

Coming up on eight years on from when we first started in July 2007, my co-host and I have done all sorts with the podcast and it has led to all sorts of opportunities, personally and professionally. I’ve attended comic book conventions and spoken on panels about podcasting, their place in the new media landscape and taken part in discussions about whether or not it’s a form of journalism. I also co-ran the podcasting track at the Nine Worlds Geekfest convention last year and will be involved again this year.

Professionally I’ve used the editing and sound skills I learned from a hobby in two of my jobs. One was to introduce podcasting to a large global company who wanted to keep their employees up to date in a way that was mobile. So I trained a couple of other people on good technique, introduced them to the software and how it works, and off they went. I’ve also used the same skills for video editing and my voice has been used on several demonstration videos which I put together.

On a personal level, podcasting has allowed me to speak with some amazing creative people, writers and artist from several mediums, plus independent filmmakers. This was sometimes on the Book Club where we spoke to authors, and sometimes on Comic Book Outsiders.

We’ve now reached the point where after so many years we’ve settled into a rhythm and are still enjoying what we do. With that in mind I thought it might be worth giving a little bit of information about the podcasts I’m involved with, as part of our mini podcasting empire!

Comic Book Outsiders – Once a month I co-host this comics and geek related podcast with Scott. This was the original podcast we started in 2007 and we are still going. We talk about things in the news, comics books, TV, films and games, we discuss meaty topics, we have guests on to talk about their work and we highlight hidden gems that don’t get as much attention as they should.

Bags of Action – Once a month I co-host this podcast with Pete Rogers. If you love action movies then this is the podcast for you. We talk about the ridiculous stories and the wonderful chaos common to this type of movie. From gun fights that go on forever to fist fights that defy gravity and common sense. Every month we discuss and dissect an action movie and always have a good time recording it. Sometimes we go off the rails a bit and dig into some of the trivia, or we just wander off into other areas if the film is poor.

Crash Landing – Once a month Scott sits down with a special guest. Fortunately they have been rescued from a dying earth. Unfortunately the rocket ship they are on is going to crash land. They have to decide which popular media they want to save, books, films or comics, or a combination of all three. What could they not live without on their brave new world? As well as talking about why they love their choices we find out more about our special guests each month.

The website for the CBO network has more information on all of the podcasts, plus ways you can get involved and even support the podcasts. It’s all on iTunes as well so give one or more of the podcasts a try and let me know what you think.

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Pace yourself

Not long before we started the Bags of Action podcast I compiled a list of action films I’d missed seeing at the cinema. I then expanded the list into films in general I would really like to see, at least once, but not necessarily own. In about ten minutes I had a list of over 40 films. It really wasn’t that difficult because I don’t have as much free time as I used to. Making a trip to the cinema can no longer be a spur of the moment thing. I’ve said for years that at some point I will join a film club and just start renting movies every week, so that’s what I’ve finally done.

I’m now striking a healthier balance between time spent working and relaxing. And by working I mean writing. Now that I’m not podcasting as much I have a bit more spare time, but rather than immediately fill that time up with other responsibilities (and I’ve turned down a couple, such as book reviews or a column for SFF websites) or more time at the keyboard, I’m using it to relax. That means time spent reading one of the many books on my to read pile, catching up on the slightly smaller stack of comics and watching films.

I’m not writing to a publisher’s deadline so the only pressure is the self-imposed one. Also I think this is slightly healthier than smacking my head on a keyboard night after night after night when the words are not coming. When the words are flowing and I’m in the zone then I will sit down and just write until it’s all there on the page, but it’s not always like that. There may come a point when I am writing to deadline, and from speaking to published authors I know they sometimes have to do it, grind the story out, one word at a time. But I’m not there yet. Now I’m also finding that when I sit down to write, maybe five nights out of seven, I’m enjoying it more. Also, ideas have started to bubble up from other places for other stories and I’m also tying things together better in my head for the current novel. Even in my down time when I’m relaxing, something is working in the background like a screensaver or a virus scan, joining the dots or weaving a huge web that I’m not consciously aware of, well not immediately. It’s a cliché but I’m now able to see the wood for the trees.

It’s easy to fall into a routine and have it actually turn out to be an unhealthy rut without realising. I know what the little voice at the back of my head is saying. Oh, you’re obviously not dedicated. You obviously don’t want this as badly as some who do sit there seven nights a week. Well, if you can work five (or more) days a week in a busy job, for eight to ten hours a day, and then come home and produce something that is excellent, then good for you. I have a lot of other things crowding in my head these days, duties, responsibilities and concerns, and while previously it was easier for me to write every night, I can’t anymore.

The irony is that I’m also hungrier than I’ve ever been, but I’m also a lot more aware that when I do send something to an agent it can’t just be good, it has to be amazing. In fact it has to be excellent. Someone else has to read it and immediately want to pick up the phone, email someone or tell a friend about it. Something in the story has to pop and it has to inspire them, because the right agent will be your champion. I’m also very aware that writing the story is only part of a writer’s job nowadays and there are many related tasks, but your agent has to inspire an editor at a publisher to give you a chance. They then have to be able to convince a number of other people in various departments that it is worth taking a risk on you. All of that begins with you words. I understand the concept of never being 100% happy with something, but when you are ready to let it out into the world it should have been polished (by many hands and seen by many eyes) to within an inch of its life.

I’m also going to stop imposing deadlines for myself because I think they can be unhelpful. Deadlines such as I’m going to get this edited by the end of this month and then send it off the month after. Well, what if you’re not happy with it by the end of the first month? What if deep down you know it’s just not yet ready? Deadlines can be useful and if the novel is published then that will change too, because they become fixed and rigid things that cannot move. The book must be done by this date, so it can be edited by this date, printed by this date and so on, but right now it’s extra pressure I don’t need that I’m heaping on myself.

I’ll never claim to be an artist, and if you ever hear me say that in public you have my permission to slap me across the face, but I do think that writing needs time to breathe. If you write something then put it in a drawer and then don’t look at it for three months, when you next read it the story will feel slightly alien and you may even have forgotten certain parts. This has happened to me and I’ve been both pleasantly surprised and horrified by some old material. Also the book should have been read by several people who have given you their honest opinions. The book starts with you but by the end of it, even though your name is the only one on the cover, dozens of other people are responsible for its success.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, for me, it means I’m in a better place in my head. It means when I sit down to write it is no longer a chore. It’s still a job to me, not a hobby, and I feel that time away from the keyboard is actually helping me write better. The other key factor, of course, is sleep. I’m not short changing myself anymore and writing until I fall asleep at the keyboard. I’m sleeping a bit more for many for the same reasons mentioned above. When I’m asleep my brain is sorting the pieces of the jigsaw, finding the edges and starting to see patterns. I’m less tired for my day job and therefore less tired when I do sit down to write. It means less time at the keyboard some nights, but if all I produce in four hours is 300 words and 200 of those are crap, what was the point? I’d rather have two productive hours and produce something that I don’t have to throw away and start afresh.

A healthy balance is definitely the way forward for me.

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The end of CBO…well, sort of.

Five years ago this July I started podcasting with a friend. This is back in 2007 when there weren’t that many podcasts. That sounds like a crazy thing to say, but ten years ago there weren’t any smart phones either, not really. The first one might have just come out, but it was nothing like the powerful machines we all carry around in our pockets these days. Machines with more memory than a hundred or even a thousand of my first PCs. But I digress. The point was, when I started doing podcasting on a regular basis, it was at a time when I had a sign on my table at a comics convention that read, ask me about podcasts. Almost every hour during that weekend one or two people came up and asked me ‘So what is a podcast?’

We weren’t one of the first, not by a long shot, but we were fairly unique at the time in that we only focused on comics outside the mainstream publishers of Marvel and DC. By that time the majority of the comics I was reading came from other publishers and other podcasts had coverage of the Big2 all sewn up. It seemed like a good fit. I was a life long comic book reader and I wanted to talk about some great comics people might not be aware of. My co-host was someone recently returned to comics and he was looking for some original material.

Five years on and we’re bringing the podcast to a close. During that time the show evolved in a number of different ways with new segments and we expanded our remit into covering hidden gems from the world of independent comics, movies, films and television. We also added a book club and I’m very proud of it and grateful to our listeners for taking part and getting involved. I’m also very pleased that we started it because it forced me to read some books I would probably never have picked up otherwise, it filled in some gaps in my classic SF and genre reading, and it introduced me and the listeners to some fantastic authors. Over the years we were lucky enough to get some great authors to take part in the podcast and interview them about their work including Arthur C. Clarke Award winners such as China Mieville (The City & The City) and Lauren Beukes (Zoo City).

We’ve also interviewed a number of independent filmmakers, and people I struggle to classify even now, but ultimately they were all extremely creative individuals trying something new, such as Jason Neulander, the creator of The Intergalactic Nemesis, a live stage show with a graphic novel projected behind the actors. He and the show were recently on Conan doing a mini performance with Conan taking part. Since 2007 we have also spoken to a number of comic book writers and artists, people I greatly admire and respect and whose work I still eagerly follow.

At times life or other commitments got in the way and the frequency of the podcast changed, or sometimes one of us wasn’t available and guest hosts stepped into the breach bringing fresh eyes, but we kept going. We always said we make the podcast because we enjoy talking about comics and so on, and best of all I like introducing people to new material they might not have heard about because it’s not local, or their comic shop doesn’t stock it, or they just weren’t aware that it even existed.

I had attended several comic book conventions before we started the podcast, but thereafter I was occasionally on a panel talking about podcasting and other forms of new media and where podcasting sits in the new wave of social media that has become increasingly important in the last eight years or so. It was very interesting to be on the other side of the table and to be sat facing a crowd of people. I actually dislike public speaking and don’t like being the centre of attention, but thankfully I wasn’t on the panels by myself and through the podcast community and the conventions I made a lot of new friends.

It’s also worth mentioning that what started out as a hobby, something that I did for fun, became something that I was able to use in my day job. Over those five years our skills at recording, editing, producing and even speaking on a chosen subject improved dramatically. We didn’t rehearse but we learned the rhythms of the other and we stopped saying um, and er, all the time. It also meant that the amount of time we spent editing was greatly reduced. A couple of jobs back, in the wake of the rise of social media and the growing importance it plays in business, the company I was working for at the time wanted to start an internal podcast for their staff who are spread out across the globe. A few weeks later I was training other people and passing on some of my podcast skills. A very weird but quire rewarding twist indeed.

I still enjoy doing the podcast but after five years I think we’ve sort of run our natural course. There are now thousands, if not tens of thousands, of podcasts, and many of them cover some or all of the same material as us. Some specialise in segments we touched on occasionally and others are equally as broad in their remit, so there is a lot more choice nowadays compared to when we started. I have a list of almost two dozen podcasts I regularly listen to during my daily commutes and, regardless of the subject, all of them are producing by passionate fans.

So, what happens next? Well, Comic Book Outsiders in its current form will cease to exist at some point in July. Thereafter the book club is going to continue so I will still be speaking to my co-host Scott on a regular basis and I’m starting a new (probably monthly) podcast. This will be something equally personal and something else I’m very passionate about. I say probably monthly because a lot of work goes into producing a podcast and I am trying very hard to focus on my writing and not commit myself to any new projects. The time spent on the new podcast should actually be less than CBO. Well, that’s theory anyway. I also think this new podcast will help me. Hopefully it will fuel my writing, give me something to think about and drive me (and hopefully other writers) forward. More info will be announced closer to the end of CBO. Also Scott is going to be doing a new podcast too and again there will be more info towards the end of CBO. So it is an ending, it’s just not the end.

We started out with good intentions – introducing people to comics (and later movies, books, TV and films) outside the spotlight, and overall I think we succeeded.

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A new beginning

Hello, and welcome to my blog. This is going to be a real mixed bag with all sorts of different posts. I have bits and pieces all over the internet and some of those will continue but this blog will serve as a collection point for all of those plus other stuff.

Previously I’ve written book and comic reviews on my own book review blog, then I joined up with Mark over at Walker of Worlds before it went on hiatus, and I briefly stopped over at Floor to Ceiling Books. Since I’m still an avid reader and always have one book on the go, I will be continuing to post book reviews, but they will be on here from now on.

Since July 2007 I’ve co-hosted a comics podcast. We focus on comics beyond the mainstream superhero titles, as well as genre TV, movies and geek culture in general. Comics are a big part of my life, I’ve been reading them for over 20 years and I love the medium. Like many comic book fans I started in a familiar place with superhero titles but since then have gone on to read across a broad range of genres. Since I’ve always got at least one comic on the go, I’ll be posting comic reviews here as well. I’ll also post links and updates about the podcast which we’re still doing.

Attached to the podcast is a SFF book club for listeners, where we alternate between an older or classic work of SFF and then switch it up to a new modern book, something from the last ten years. So I’ll mention that on here from time to time as well, so please join in with that if you like the current selection or send in suggestions for the future.

On top of that I’ll be posting more general stuff, posts about my current writing projects (at the moment I’m nearing the end of the first draft of an original fantasy novel and I’m working on 2 comic book projects), and anything else that is on my mind.

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