The New Accelerator

Around the start of 2013, my good friend, David Winstanley, and I hit upon a ruse to create a little sci-fi anthology of our own. David is a bit of a whizz in the editorial department, and I was eager to try the then fledgling TypeEngine system. Fast forward eighteen months and we, after a lot of trials and tribulations, have managed to get Issue #1 (and the free Issue #0) of The New Accelerator onto the App Store for your amusement and delight (should you be inclined to enjoy Sci-Fi short stories, that is).

And what a cracking bunch of short stories they are too. From the humourous to the weird and back, via some deeply philosophical detours, the ten stories in Issue #1 and the two stories in Issue #0 represent, I think, all that is really great about Science Fiction.

At the moment, it’s only available on iOS devices via Apple’s App Store (and Newsstand), but we’re busy helping to test the Android beta, so the Android version should be along soon. Issue #0 comes free with the app, and gives you a great taster of what you can expect should you choose to splash out on the bi-monthly subscription.

David and I are hugely proud of what we’ve achieved, even if it did take much longer than expected, and hope you enjoy these and all our future issues of The New Accelerator.



“My goodness Cogs,” I hear you all cry. “It’s about time you set forth another one of your madcap websites on the world, isn’t it?”

Well, great people of the world, who am I to argue with that? And as the fates would have it, I have such a website to share with you!

A few weeks ago, I was perusing the interwebs and I came across this fascinating article about Social Capital by Jon Hickman, which mentions both Cory Doctorow (who I don’t know), and Lloyd Davis (who I do know). The article got the old grey matter whirring. Could you create an alternative system to our current economic system that was built on social capital? How would that work? Would it be possible to live in a world where you traded and lived by other people’s opinions of you?

So I came up with Whuff as a means to find out. It’s been a fascinating ride, taking me on a crash course in real economics along the way, and the end result is, well, I don’t know yet. I need you lot to play with it and get your friends on board and see if my hunches are anywhere near correct.

And before any Corey Doctorow purists get all hot under the collar, yes, I know the system and nomenclature is a bit different to the one outlined in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but I hadn’t actually read the book at the time, and didn’t want to until I’d got my own ideas out onto paper. I should finish the book in the next day or two. It’s very good, you should read it.

But check out Whuff first, and throw a few Whuffies at your mates!


All in a Day’s Work

I’ve spent the past few weeks developing a little short film project with a few chums of mine, and we’re going to do a bit of a crowdfunding campaign to get it rocking properly.

It’s called All in a Days Work and will star Mark Benton, Paul Kavanagh (who also scripted it) and Ben Shockley (who was also in my other films House of Donn and Secret Thoughts of Angels).

The story revolves around a couple of hit men mistakenly sent on the same job, only to find their target already dead. A psychological battle ensues as the two guys duke it out to see who will claim the hit, and the reward, and who will walk away with nothing.

We’re looking to do it all properly (pay and feed the actors and crew, plus we’ll need some FX shots done), so we’re aiming for a target of £5000. We’re launching the campaign today, and running it until the 25th May, so please, please, please, if you can spare a fiver (or more!) we’d really appreciate your help with this. We have some nice rewards to choose from.

Even if you can’t spare any cash, a Facebook mention or Tweet about the campaign would be really, really appreciated.

We’re running the campaign at

Oh, and feel free to follow the All in a Day’s Work twitter account too!

Thank you!


Measure for Measure Update

For the past year I’ve been developing a Sci-Fi production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. I’m now finally at the stage where I’m ready to plunge ahead with funding.

We have a solid script (not hard considering the source material!), some very talented actors interested in being part of the project, locations scouted, market research complete, budgets prepped and pitch documents ready.

The script has been through many revisions, and has taken in feedback and advice from several luminaries of the Shakespearean world, including Dr. Grace Ioppolo from Reading University and Shakespearean director Paul Barry (author of A Lifetime With Shakespeare), plus not forgetting Ken Colley’s extensive experience with Shakespeare, which I have mined deeply.

Cast-wise, we have some very exciting actors who (subject to scheduling etc.) have expressed an interest in the project, including Mark Benton (Strictly Come Dancing 2013, Waterloo Road, Early Doors), Treva Etienne (Terminator Salvation, Pirates of the Caribbean, Eyes Wide Shut), Bill Fellows (Broadchurch, Doctors, Downton Abbey) and George Irving (New tricks, The Tudors, Holby City). And Ken, of course. We haven’t cast the two lead roles of Angelo and Isabella yet.

Bluewater Shopping Centre/Glow Exhibition Hall

Bluewater Shopping Centre/Glow Exhibition Hall

Measure for Measure doesn’t have many locations, so we’re hoping to shoot the majority of the film at the Bluewater Shopping Centre, near Dartford, and the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate. Both are very futuristic looking locations and perfect for the new setting we’ve put the film in.

These locations will be complemented by the visual FX work of Alexander Kucera and his team of magicians at Babylondreams. We’re also developing some very nice costume designs, with the help of fashion designer and lecturer Rebecca Washington-Hughes.

Costume design concept for Isabella

Costume design concept for Isabella

Late last year I conducted some market research, and was more than pleasantly surprised by the results. Nearly 200 very splendid people took the time to answer the survey, many responding with lengthy and positive comments. Now this was a diverse group of people, taken from my personal contacts, so I would say only a small fraction of them were ardent Shakespeare fans. Even so, 80% of them said they thought the film was a good idea and they would like to see it. There’s clearly a bit of a market for the film.

I’m quite proud of what I’ve achieved to date, but it’s all for nothing if I can’t get the funding together. So, to that end, I’m offering a finders reward to anyone who can put me in contact with people who may be interested in investing in such a venture (I’m offering 5% of the amount the lead actually invests). We’re looking at a reasonably large budget, so that could be quite a nice payout for you for not a lot of effort!

You can find more information on the project website at (plus you can follow the project on Facebook and Twitter). The website has a downloadable project overview, and I have a detailed investors booklet and budget for anyone interested in investing.

If you know of anyone who may be interested in investing, please contact me at

“Ignore Everybody”

Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

“Ignore Everybody” are the wise words of Hugh MacLeod, and they came to mind to me this evening as I was perusing some of the screenplays that have been made available by the studios for the awards season (there’s a nice list of them here courtesy of Blue Cat Screenplay).

I’ve been twaddling about with screenplays for a number of years now and the one thing that really gets on my wick is the use of the ‘We’ convention. ‘We see a man running’, ‘we pan around to find a giant loony wielding an axe’, etc.

I personally don’t like the convention because a) it’s often a thinly veiled attempt on the writers part to tell the director what he or she should be doing,  and b) it’s a bit lazy and often loses the immediacy of the story.

For me, and I’ve read this many times on my screenwriting travels, the screenplay is about telling a story visually, with economy. Long term readers on my blog will know I worship very much at the Church of Murch, and truly believe that there is far more power in the cut between two shots, than the power of a single shot alone. The ‘We’ convention shows that the writer is focussed purely on that one shot.

The most perfect example of a screenplay I can think of is Walter Hill and David Giler’s Alien screenplay. There are around 90 occurrences of the word We, and they all appear in the dialogue. The action parts of the script are short, staccato bursts. Each one its own shot (and, in contrast to the ‘We’ convention, a much more subtle way to get the director to shoot it as you wrote it).

The first four screenplays I’ve glanced through from this years Oscar noms all use the ‘We…’ convention within the first few pages. Now admittedly this may be more because they might well be final production drafts, after the directors have got their grubby mitts on them, but it’s still a little dispiriting to see.

So, as Hugh says, ignore everybody, including me, and write how you jolly well like – ‘We’s’ and all. It clearly doesn’t matter, you’ll still get that Oscar nom! Just tell a good story the best way you know how.


Calling All Angels!

One of the most frustrating aspects of film production, I’m finding, is just how difficult it seems to be to get the word out about your project. Press releases and the usual social media activity are all well and good, but can be a bit scattershot sometimes.

I was sat pondering solutions to this the other day, when I realised that with a bit of web jiggery-pokery, I could create a website that would help promote Indie Film production. And so I created Production Hell (so called, because I was a bit fed up when I was thinking about it and I suspected that other film producers often felt the same way – and also was already taken!).

The idea of the site is, as all sites should be, quite simple. It shows you what productions are happening in your local area (or any area you choose for that matter). Most of the information is optional, so you can add as little or as much information about your film – whether you’re looking for crew or actors or even funding. I’ve tried to make the options as comprehensive as possible.

Even if we all just added our projects with a minimal basic listing, it would soon give us a good visual of who’s doing what, and how healthy the film industry is (at least in the Independent sector).

It would be truly great if you’d check it out and let me know, either here or by email (, what you think of the site and whether I’m missing a trick or two?

It’s free to use, so if people would be kind enough to start seeding the site with a few productions too, that would be even better. Poor old Measure for Measure’s feeling a bit lonely there at the moment.


Lost in Shakes

I’ve been busy working hard on Measure for Measure these past couple of months, prepping investor packs and suchlike. Many of you may have got an email from me about a survey I ran last month as well. This was a very useful exercise for many reasons, not least that it proved to me that there is a market for the film.

The results were overwhelmingly positive, with some great feedback from a wide variety of people. The most surprising thing I got from it was that 80% of the 192 people who took the survey think that the film is a great idea and would want to see it. That’s much, much higher than I was expecting.

So now I’m all guns blazing on the funding side of things.

To help with this I’ve come up with an online game called Lost in Shakes.

It’s a bit of a riff on the 1 million pixels website idea that was a bit of a fad a few years ago. To play, you donate £2 (or local equivalent – half of which will go to charity and whatever is left, after website running costs, towards the film) and you’ll then get hidden in a pixel in a great big picture of Shakespeare. The idea of the game is to find your pixel as quickly as possible and find as many other people as you can along the way.

To start with you have a 1 in a million chance of finding yourself, but I’ve made it so that by encouraging other people to play, the game will give you hints as to where you are hidden (the more people you get to play, the bigger the hint).

I’m not expecting to fully fund the film this way, but hope that it will bring some money to the coffers for at least pre-production and raise a decent amount of money for charity as well. It would be great to raise a good chunk of money for some worthy causes – you even get to vote which charities benefit from the game.

So please do check out Lost in Shakes and encourage your friends to do so too. It would be truly awesome if we could make a difference to some lives.

I Want Your Opinion

I’m working hard on the prep for Measure for Measure, and one of the key things I’m working on now is the Business Plan for potential investors.

One thing I’m having trouble finding is some useful facts and figures on whether you guys actually want to see a Sci-Fi Shakespeare production, so I’ve devised a little survey that I’d be ever so grateful if you could take just 2 minutes to fill in (there’s only 10 questions).

There’s a free digital copy of The Elementalist for those that are awesome enough to take up the challenge!

How to Self Publish a Book – Part Two: Marketing

In the previous installment of my thrilling journey into self-publishing, I managed to publish a book on the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords platforms. I thought the hard work was over.

So it turns out the actual act of publishing a book on Amazon or Smashword is not particularly difficult. Both Amazon and Smashwords make it as painless as possible for you. Just read their instructions carefully (yes, chaps, RTFM) and all will be well.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of work needed to promote the book. I figured a few tweets, set up a Facebook page, and I’d be sorted. Silly boy, Cogs.

Lesson 3: Selling a book is harder work than writing a book.

It is a full time job, no two ways about it. As I was working full time on a freelancing gig during this period, with only my lunch hours and evenings free to promote the book, I had a lot of unexpected late nights.

Here’s a run down of what I found useful (and not so useful):

1) Reviews. Get reviews, the more the merrier. There are plenty of useful blog posts and ebooks on the subject, but in terms of getting your rankings up on Amazon, you must have reviews. Not necessarily all 5 star ones (Joe Public is a cynical beast), but as many as you can muster. I haven’t got nearly enough reviews for The Elementalist, and it’s rankings (#88,634 on and #892,061 on reflect this.

2) Sell it well. Make sure your book page is up to scratch. Look at the Amazon pages of the best sellers and work out the things they do and replicate those. Make it as easy as possible for people to get a good idea of what your book is about. Include reviews, a small sample of the text, even remind people that they can click on the Read Inside link at the top of the page (by the time they get to the bottom of your blurb, that link will have vanished off the top of the screen).

3) Book tours. These were something of a revelation to me, and proved one of the more successful marketing techniques I tried. There are lots of sites that will allow you to promote your book in a kind of virtual tour. Some are free, others charge, but in terms of gettings eyes to read extended information about your book, they are very good (also very good for the old SEO).

4) Guest blogging. Bloggers are always looking for things to write about. If you can make life easier by writing a guest blog post for them, especially if you can tailor it to their specific blog, they will almost certainly post ot for you. Make sure you include relevant links back to your site and your book in the author bio at the end.

5) Social Media. I don’t know about you, but authors constantly tweeting praise about their novel does tend to wear me down a bit. Social Media is a conversation, let people get to know you and then drop your book into the conversation when it’s appropriate. This is why I prefer to Twitter these days. There’s simply too much noise on Twitter. I daresay will go the same way eventually, but for now it’s my social home and a place where I’m building up some very good relationships with people. (If you want to try for free, you can sign up to the free tier here).

John Locke has an interesting take on how he uses social media in his ‘How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months!‘, which I would recommend as essential reading for anyone promoting their self-published books. In fact, his method of building up relationships with people on Twitter inspired me to create Tweepio.

6) Blog. If you don’t have a blog, start one. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your audience. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr – choose your weapon of choice and get blogging. If you’re stuck for something to say – there’s always Michelle Goode’s Writers Prompts a Day (#wpad). Follow Seth Godin’s advice and blog every day. This post is the third in my attempt to follow this advice.

7) Fiverr. (and it’s UK counterpart has a multitude of book promotion gigs – reviews, social media promotion, book tours etc. I used a few and all of them drove enough sales to cover the cost. Be choosy who you pick and check the reviews. If you’re in the UK, is better value.

8) KDP Select. Using the Amazon KDP Select free giveaway days is a superb way of raising your profile. Admittedly it doesn’t make you any money, but it’s easy to promote on social media – everyone loves a bargain. Use it! If it means having to delay publishing on Smashwords or other outlets until later, it’s worth it. There are loads of free day promotion sites who’ll promote your book on the free giveaway days. One site I found very useful was which has a useful tool for submitting to quite a few of these free day promotion sites in one hit.

9) Competitions. I ran a weird weather photo competition to promote The Elementalist, and it was, by far, the most effective thing I did, at least in terms of driving traffic to the site. With hindsight, I wouldn’t have let it run on as long. Six weeks was a long time to keep the momentum going, and once I’d initially promoted it, I quickly lost interest in it until the last couple of weeks. It all kicked off in the last three days where I got a lot of traffic and made a large number of sales.

10) Book trailers. To be honest, as a filmmaker, I find most of these a bit naff, but then most of your target is audience probably isn’t a pompous arse like me, so they are certainly worth investigating. There are several sites and services that can make one for you, at a cost.

11) Print Advertising. I splashed out a reasonable sum of money on an advert in SFX Magazine, promoting both the book and the weird weather competition. Initially I was reluctant to go down this route as the costs were high compared to all the online activities. But when you’ve worked as a Marcom Manager, the old insticts start kicking in. Large niche target audience – check, good ‘brand’ exposure – check. So I went for it. I’ll be honest and say that I was more than a little disappointed in the results. I was over the moon with the ad, and the positioning within the magazine. Yet it resulted in very few sales. Which leads me on to perhaps the biggest lesson I learned.

12) Write more books. If you don’t have a back catalogue, promoting your book is somewhat self defeating. If people don’t know you, they probably won’t care about an ad in SFX magazine. ‘Andy Cough-who? Pah!’ And they’ll move on. This is why reviews are critical. People tend to buy based on the advice of their friends or trusted sources (bloggers, reviewrs etc.). This ‘second level of influence’ takes time to build up. To compound the issue, if you do write a good book (as I’m sure you have), people will get to the end and want more. If you can’t offer them more immediately, some of the magic disappears and an almost guaranteed sale is lost.

* * *

So there you have it. Four months worth of hard work distilled into two blog posts. The long and the short of it is simple; marketing your book is really, really hard work.

If you are a new writer, don’t get hung up on spending a huge amount of time beating your head against a brick wall, only to find the sales only slowly trickling in. As someone pointed out, book marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re probably better off spending your time writing more awesome books than trying to sell one awesome book on its own.


How to Self Publish a Book – Part One: Writing and Editing

A few months ago I published The Elementalist on Amazon and, once the KDP Select period had expired, Smashwords. It was an interesting exercise with a steeper than expected learning curve, so I thought I’d share the results of my extended self-publishing experience over a couple of blog posts.

The Elementalist has been floating around for a few years since I wrote the larger part of it during NaNoWriMo 2007. I did a long winded rewrite which I published as a weekly serial in 2008/9, which garnered a readership of approximate 1 and half.

Lesson 1: Novel Web Serialisations don’t work on their own. If you want to go down this route, use Jukepop Serials, or Google plus, or a site where there is a ready made audience.

Annoyed that I’d sat on the book for so long without really pushing it, and lured by romantic notions of being the next Amanda Hocking or John Locke, I decided in January that I should buckle down, tidy it up and self-publish it.

I discovered the very excellent site, Grammarly, and spent many, many hours running the novel, chapter by chapter, through the system. It taught me an awful lot – mainly how bad I am with run on sentences and comma abuse.

The process was longer and more painful than I thought it would be. Grammarly can be a hard task master, but I was more than pleased with the results. I’ve no doubt it improved the readability of the book immensely.

Eager to get the book out there, I figured that as I could find no typos and had rewritten a high percentage of the book to to expunge it of squinting modifiers and faulty parallelisms, it must be ready.

Lesson 2: Just because Microsoft Word and Grammarly tell you there are no spelling mistakes, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Get someone else to proof read it first. Pay someone who does it for a living.

Although there were no typos, there were missing words and mis-spelled words that still spelt correct words. Imagine my embarrassment when I realised that at one point I’d called my main character, Barin, ‘Bain’. Durh! Talk about amateur hour.

Seriously folks, if you don’t want to look like a buffoon and ruin your great 5 star novel with reviews such as ‘The only negative is that the book would have benefited from a proof read, or editing as there are quite a few typing errors…,’ then get a good proof reader. There’s no excuse for this kind of comment to appear, the reviewer should not have had to make it.

Tomorrow: Publishing the book and marketing it. Easy, right?