I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been chosen as the first Writer in Residence at The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word.
I’m spending seven days at The Word and I’ll be creating a new short story while I’m there. The dates of my residency are:
Day 1 – Tuesday 21/3
Day 2 – Friday 24/3
Day 3 – Saturday 25/3
Day 4 – Wednesday 5/4
Day 5 – Sunday 9/4
Day 6 – Monday 10/4
Day 7 – Thursday 13/4
My writing will be inspired by the fantastic building and by speaking to the many people who use it – I’m particularly interested in what those people were doing before The Word was built, and what it is they do in the building now it’s here. I’ll be talking to people about their lives – I want to hear their stories.
Here’s my first vlog from Day 1.
If you’re visiting The Word please do say hello!
I’m delighted to announce that the third and final book in the Timesmith Chronicles series will be published later in 2017. Entitled Grimnire book three will see a conclusion to Jack’s adventures in time.
“The Rose of Annwn must be returned to Otherworld, or all life is lost.”
14-year-old Jack Morrow is lost in time. Gifted with the ability to traverse Sorrowlines – the pathways that connect every gravestone to the date of a person’s death – Jack is desperate to return to his friends in 1940s London, but he’s hundreds of years adrift. Deep within him rests a great power stolen from another realm which must be returned. But there are others who would take it from him, including the burned and disfigured Rouland.
More details will follow soon – sign up to my newsletter for regular updates.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since my first book came out. Sorrowline was published in the UK on the 3rd of January 2013, following later in other countries around the world. It’s been an exciting four years; I’ve visited schools, libraries and festivals across Europe, and been shortlisted for several book awards.
The sequel to Sorrowline – Timesmith – came out over two years ago, so where is the third in the series? That’s a very good question, one I hope to answer in the next few days. Stay tuned.
2016 has been an odd year. In spite of its cavalier attitude to celebrity lifespans and its blatant disregard for commonsense voting, opinion poles and the general prospects for the future of humanity, my 2016 has been a bit, well… meh! It’s not been a bad year, I’ve had some really good times, a fantastic holiday, and made some good progress with my writing. But I can’t call it a good year either. It’s been a year of waiting, a year of plodding on, a year of… hang on! This sounds an awful lot like 2015!
And therein lies the problem with 2016. It hasn’t given me the results I was hoping for. But then it’s not 2016’s fault, it just happened to be the year on watch while I didn’t fulfil my potential. Likewise 2016 didn’t kill all those great artists, writers, actors and musicians we lost this year, it was just happened to be there when it happened. 2016 is the lamp-post that we all drove into on a dark rainy night. It’s not the lamp-post’s fault. It’s not 2016’s fault. The only person I can blame for me not getting where I wanted to this year is me.So when 2016 turns into 2017 I’m going to do everything I can to get me where I want to be by 2018. But before I dive into my over-complex plans for world domination, here’s a brief look back at my 2016.
I start the year by planning what I hope to achieve in the next twelve months. Some of this happens, some of it doesn’t. I also release the third video in my new YouTube series, Writing & Stuff, featuring advice for writers from my agent Juliet Mushens.
More Writing & Stuff fun, this time with my good friend and collaborator Chris Chatterton. We talk about picture-books and making a living as an illustrator, all from the inside of a car at night! I also complete draft two of Project Artichoke.
For tax reasons I spend the month as a tree. For the most part this is an extremely enjoyable career change. I enjoy the wind blowing through my branches, the early morning conversations with the birds and insects, but there’s a dog called Muffin who relieves himself on me every day. My bark shows signs of staining. I really want to kick Muffin.
The third draft of Project Artichoke is done, and I manage to do a few drawings to go along with the text. I don’t get enough time to draw these days, so it’s a fun diversion. I’m also appointed at the Patron of Reading at North Durham Academy Academy.
I’m invited by the Queen to play in her back garden and eat tiny sandwiches. Hard to believe but it’s actually true! I behave myself and manage not to get involved in an international incident. Really, it wasn’t my fault.
I fulfil a lifetime ambition when I meet Apollo Astronaut and all-round legend Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin. They say don’t meet your heroes but Buzz didn’t disappoint. He was funny, eccentric, energetic and enthusiastic, keen to promote the colonisation of Mars and beyond.
I finally get some copies of the Brazilian edition of Timesmith, even though it’s been out over there for about a year. Apparently this is due to a temporal rift in the space-time continuum that has opened up in the local postal depot. The postman babbled about dinosaurs and robots, he even said Trump would be President, but I could smell alcohol on his breath so I’m not sure what to believe.
I take a much-needed holiday in the beautiful landscape of Lake Garda in Italy. I take a break from writing too, leaving my laptop in England so that I could completely relax and read books. The only downside of the holiday is the return to reality at the end.
The first draft of my latest book, cryptically known only as Project Nova, is done. This is my fifth book! How on earth did that happen? The shock of this plunges me into a deep coma that lasts for eighteen seconds.
I am officially named as the new Chair of the Society of Authors regional group, Authors North. The power goes to my head and I invade Waterstones in Middlesbrough and declare it as an independent state. I am accepted as the foretold leader of legend, until the food runs out and we resort to using books as clothing, weapons and sustenance. The new republic lasts just six hours. Fourteen people remain unaccounted for.
One of the most influential comic artists of my youth, Steve Dillon, passed away this month. Steve was a major inspiration in my early years trying to be a comic artist. His work continued to innovate and inspire throughout his career, and his death is a massive loss to the comic industry.
In the rush towards Christmas I manage to squeeze in an amazing night watching Rogue One, including a cast and crew Q&A. And I discover an intriguing connection between me and the director Gareth Edwards. I also manage to finished the second draft of Project Nova. The third draft will be done over the Christmas break, ready to be sent out in January.
So that was 2016. Thanks for reading, sharing, buying my books, coming to my events, and all the other things that you do to support me and other writers. I hope 2017 is the year you want it to be. Niel x
Remember when I animated Tony Blair piloting a microscopic submarine through the veins of the Duchess of Cambridge?
It was for The Windsors, a Channel 4 comedy that was broadcast earlier this year. Well, The Windsors is back for a Christmas Special, and this time I’ve animated this chap, Gargantua, the EU’s automatic defence system:Gargantua is a rather toothy computer interface that has a ding dong with Prince Charles. With the entire UK under threat of a nuclear strike what could possibly go wrong? Tune in tonight at 10pm on Channel 4 in the UK to find out. And in the meantime here’s a trailer for the episode:
Yesterday I was lucky enough to see the new Star Wars movie in Leicester Square a day before it went on general release. I loved the film, it captured the essence of Star Wars but propelled it into the arena of 21st century cinema in a more convincing way than The Force Awakens managed (and I loved The Force Awakens). Afterwards the cast and crew talked for half an hour about the making of the movie. This was even more fun than the film! Here they are, director Gareth Edwards with actors Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed and Alan Tudyk:
Alan was particularly entertaining, talking about the process of performing as a sarcastic droid.
And Gareth discussed the origin of the character of Chirrut and why he’s blind – it’s to do with Kyber dust.
Deigo revealed how he struggled to keep his role a secret, and how his son bragged about a set visit to entertain teenage girls.
As I was leaving I bumped into Kevin Cecil, co-creator of Hyperdrive. I worked on Hyperdrive producing the animation and vfx for the show, including being involved in the development and design of the main space ship, the HMS Camden Lock. I hadn’t seen Kevin for a few years so we grabbed a quick drink to catch up. As we were waiting to be served Kevin turned to me and said, “Do you know the big connection between you and Gareth Edwards?”
Gareth’s background is in CGI and visual effects, so I was immediately intrigued. I was already impressed by his determination as a film-maker, and how he made the jump from VFX into writing and directing. But I hadn’t got a clue how we might be connected. Had we met and I’d forgotten all about it perhaps?
“No, you’ve not met,” Kevin said. “But you have a really big connection.”
Our drinks arrived just as I ran out of guesses. “OK, Kevin, tell me.”
“Gareth built the first version of the HMS Camden Lock.”
Before Hyperdrive was commissioned there was a short non-broadcast pilot made featuring Mark Gatiss, Robert Webb and a few other actors not in the series. I never saw this until about a year ago, so as we began development on the show I had no idea what Gareth had built. The pilot has surfaced on YouTube so it’s interesting to compare this to the full series. Why Gareth didn’t work on the full series remains a bit of a mystery but I presume he was off starting his directing career or working on other animation projects.
It’s odd to think that, just over a decade ago, our paths almost crossed and now he’s directing the biggest movie of the year. I could sit here and mumble and moan about my career path but I won’t… not for too long anyway!
One downside of the event was that by time it was over the last train home had left. Not wanting to stay in London overnight I did something I hadn’t had to do in more than twenty years: I got the bus. It took over six hours and was like Mos Eisley on wheels. It’s a night I won’t forget in a hurry.