Month: January, 2012

Favourite stuff of 2011

The first month of 2012 has nearly passed, but before it did I thought I’d sneak in my list of favourite stuff from 2011. I know, I know – these lists are usually compiled before the new year but I’m a writer so my procrastination shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Favourite 2011 Book – Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

I very nearly put The Passage in this spot and considering my chosen genre it probably would have made more sense, but honestly this is the book that left the biggest impression. I find myself thinking about the characters from time to time which is odd, considering I rarely identified with them and often downright despised them. Nevertheless, their journey was fascinating and the insights Franzen makes are always thought- provoking and occasionally deeply moving.

Favourite 2011 Movie – Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Not many people like this film. Of my friends, maybe one or two enjoyed it as much as I did. Most thought it was pretentious and overlong. You know what? It is pretentious and overlong but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. I honestly can’t understand how someone could sit in the theatre and not be affected, on a purely sensory level, by the hauntingly beautiful images Malick has captured. If there wasn’t a dramatic through line linking these images I still think it would stand as one of the best film experiences of the year, but the story is there. It’s just not presented conventionally. The movie takes a little work (not much – we’re not talking rocket science here) but for those willing to give themselves over to Malick’s vision the rewards are worth it.

Favourite 2011 Album – The Suburbs, The Arcade Fire

Okay, this is where I reveal my complete lack of cutting edge coolness. The Suburbs is a 2010 release but when I went back through my iPod I discovered to my horror that it was the most recent album I’d listened to. To make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I checked out the Rolling Stone website of best 2011 releases and was doubly horrified to learn I hadn’t listened to any of the albums. At thirty-two I am officially out of touch. Great album, though.

Favourite 2011 TV Show – Game of Thrones, HBO

Not being a massive fantasy guy, I was relatively ignorant of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. That changed the moment I caught the first five minutes of HBO’s masterful adaptation. High production values, copious bloodshed, nudity and superlative acting all combined to make Game of Thrones a genuinely unmissable television event. Hours were given to this show – hours which I should have spent writing Winter’s Light, but I value every minute and can’t wait for season two!

Favourite 2011 Comic Book – Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, Mike Mignola

Don’t let the pulpy title throw you off, Hellboy contains some of the most lyrical writing and evocative art of the year. Mignola is something of a mad alchemist, mixing anglo saxon myth and fairy lore in with grand guignol horror and superheroics. What makes Hellboy resonate though is its big beating heart. At turns touching and horrifying, Hellboy’s journey is one I hope continues well into the future.

So that’s my list done. Feel free to comment on my choices below or supply links to your own lists.


M. J.

Fright Night

It’s not often I go to the movies.

What with a fulltime job, writing after work, maintaining relationships with my friends, family and fiancée, I simply don’t have the opportunity. However, a few months ago I did manage to catch the big budget Hollywood remake of Fright Night. Now you might ask, why would this fellow who rarely makes it to the cinema waste his time with a schlocky horror flick? A remake no less! To which, I would answer – hey, I’m a shlocky horror kind of guy. Besides, I’m a huge fan of the 1985 original and I don’t necessarily have a bias against remakes (though this is being tested as Hollywood cannibalizes its back catalogue more and more frequently). Read the rest of this entry »

Post a photo of Winter’s Shadow and win a signed copy

I was riding on the bus this morning and noticed the person sitting opposite me was reading a book. It’s rare these days to see commuters reading. Most seem content to plug in to their iPhones and watch fat cats on Youtube trying to squeeze into tiny boxes. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t Winter’s Shadow. This isn’t hugely surprising as my YA paranormal is hardly a cultural phenomenon but it made me a little sad and wistful all the same. Or maybe it was just low blood sugar (I generally don’t eat breakfast until I get into work). Regardless, I started fantasising about seeing someone reading my book on a bus. Good reviews are one thing but actually seeing tangible evidence of a stranger enjoying my novel would be unbelievably cool. I suspect it would not only make my day – it would probably make my month.

Read the rest of this entry »

Proofing Winter’s Light

There are aspects about the writing process I genuinely love.

I love beginning a new project, coming to the blank page with an idea for what might very well be the best thing I’ve ever written. Of course, it might turn out to be the worst thing I’ve ever written, but that pregnant moment before my fingers hit the keys is magic.

I love having written. There are fewer more satisfying feelings than glancing at a stack of pages and knowing that you’re responsible for every word printed on them.

Occasionally, I actually love writing. Especially those periods – brief though they are – when the story is flowing, characters and scenes spilling from my fingertips as though remembered instead of contrived.

I love typing ‘The End’. Read the rest of this entry »

A new year, a new book, and a new resolution

And so 2012 is upon us.

If the doomsday prophets are right it’s the last year we’ve got before the earth explodes or gets eaten by a giant fiery bird or something so we should probably make the most of it. I don’t know about you but I’ve got quite a few things on my bucket list that still need to be checked off. I’ve already managed to achieve the first – write a novel – so now I’m onto number two – Become the King of All Media. Yes, I am a man of simple tastes and modest ambitions. To be happy all I need is a book with my name on it and complete domination of the cultural landscape.


So, delusions of grandeur aside let us look at this task pragmatically or as pragmatically as one can examine a near-impossible task. How do you become the King of All Media? What are the steps that must be completed? Firstly, it seems prudent we should identify just who is the reigning King. After all, if I am to steal this crown I need to know who’s currently wearing it. This isn’t as easy as it seems. Titans exist in music, movies, literature and the other arts yet there are very few multi-hyphenates or few of note in any case.

Charles Dickens knew how to write a book but nobody ever talks about his brief run as an actor/director adapting his own stories for the stage (I hear his Pip was a little on the nose). Being really great at one thing usually means being mediocre at everything else. There’s only so much creative energy we have to throw around. However, every now and again someone comes along who excels not only in one field but many. Neil Gaiman is one such fellow and as such I suspect he may be the man to beat.

Reading over Gaiman’s cv is enough to make even the cockiest storyteller bristle with envy – award winning comic books, bestselling and critically lauded novels, blockbuster films, quirky musical side projects with his incredibly talented wife, Amanda Palmer. Gaiman has written for television (check out The Doctor’s Wife – one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes ever) inspired video games and plays and if this wasn’t enough also appeared on an episode of The Simpsons.

Considering these amazing achievements, it’s important (well, necessary really if I’m even considering throwing my hat in the ring) to remember that Neil Gaiman wasn’t always NEIL GAIMAN. His first foray into the world of publishing was a biography on Duran Duran. Yes, that’s right. Duran Duran. Girls on Film is pretty great, and I like Ordinary World but we’re not talking The Beatles here.

If Gaiman could rise to such dizzying heights from this inauspicious beginning then perhaps the crown isn’t as far out of reach as I thought. I’ve already got one novel out there and a second landing in May. I have this blog and…well, that’s about it. To become the King of All Media means writing for ALL MEDIA so having one foot in publishing and one in the blogosphere simply isn’t going to cut it. I need to create more material for different media platforms. At the moment, I have an idea for a comic about a clockwork man and his possessed cat, a treatment for a supernatural TV show that mixes the tone of Underbelly with the occult and a scattershot of movie concepts. It’s a start but as anyone who’s ever attempted any creative endeavour knows, ideas by themselves do not great work make. You actually need to act on these ideas. In other words, you need to write.

Neil Gaiman doesn’t just sit around thinking about cool stories – he writes them down. Granted he’s a multi-millionaire with time up his sleeve but I’m sure there was a time when he had to go without television and sacrifice sleep to complete his projects. Which is what I’ll have to do if I’m going to see even half of these writing goals through to the end.

New Years resolutions are generally worthless (how many times have I resolved to exercise and eat less pizza only to find myself sitting on the couch weeks later with said resolution buried beneath a pile of greasy Dominos boxes) but here’s mine for 2012:

Write more, sleep less.

What are your resolutions?

M. J.

P. S.

If by chance the producers of The Simpsons are interested in having me cameo in Season 24 here’s what I might look like Simpsonized: