Friday, October 06, 2017

Steampunk Podcast - ARC Light Programme

Since writing stories, performing with prog rock bands and doing my day job are clearly not enough, I have begun serialising my stories into a podcast series.  Based around a fictional presenter (Theodore Pilkington-Rhubarb) and his hapless assistant (Mabel - surname not yet revealed), the podcast takes the form of an old-fashioned radio show in the style of the Goon Show or I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.  Each week I read part of my book (either a whole story or half of one, concluding the following week) plus new material that I write.  At the moment this is a collection of Listener's Letters, but soon I'm going to branch out into other silly ideas.

It's also a great showcase for the steampunk music of Charlotte Savigar - it works so well in this context and it's well worth getting the album if you like what you hear.  It's all good clean fun and suitable for listeners of any age.  If you love a bit of comedy / storytelling and enjoy a good podcast or audio book, then it's well worth checking out.

You can subscribe via iTunes or Overcast or just visit Soundcloud to hear the episodes.  It's on Stitcher too and TuneIn, but I don't know the links (okay I found the links, so you can click any of them now).  You can find it by searching for "Tales of New Albion".  Do let me know what you think!  There is a new episode coming every week.

Mind you, you can't please all the people all the time.  Have a read of this letter, I don't know, critics!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Interview with Charlotte Savigar

As part of the promotion for the new Tales Of New Albion steampunk electro-rock album, I managed to get hold of the talented composer - Charlotte Savigar - to ask her a few questions about the creation process:

How did you get into music composing?

After starting piano aged 7, it was obvious I had an instant love for this instrument and indeed music. I remember as a kid listening to composers such as Liszt and Chopin at my Grandad’s house and feeling incredibly moved and connected to the piano pieces I was hearing. I guess this was the catalyst that prompted me to sit down and start writing my own music.
I wrote my first solo piano composition aged 11, it was called ‘Pulse’ and I remember feeling really proud of my creation. I even performed it at a school assembly. From there I filled up manuscript book after manuscript book writing down as many ideas as I could. 

Tell us about the Tales Of New Albion project and how that came about

I spend the majority of my time writing library music and every so often I will have a quiet patch where I’m waiting for my next project to begin. With this knowledge, my husband suggested that I write a piece of music for his next story (from the Tales of New Albion) that he was due to read at an upcoming Surrey Steampunk Convivial. After doing a little research about the steampunk genre I decided to create a victoriana / scifi sounding track that is now officially the ‘Albion theme music’. We were both very happy with the composition so Daren suggested that I compose more pieces to accompany his book. Over the course of about 10 months, he gave me more and more story briefs and I pretty much had free range to choose my musical pallet and get creative!  

What is your favourite track from the album and why?

My favourite track is ‘Lost in the Great White’, I would describe this as ‘the serious track’ on the album! It took a lot of time to create this Asian sounding composition and the reason I like it so much is that it really moves me. I feel an emotional connection this piece and am very proud of the writing here.

Your previous releases were more song based, how was it working on an instrumental album?

I loved it! As much as I enjoyed and still do enjoy recording vocal music in the studio, I struggle so much with writing lyrics that on so many occasions it’s held me back. I realised towards the end of 2015 that I was losing the passion for writing songs and once I started writing library music I decided that this was where my heart felt whole and ironically I felt I could express myself more through instrumental music than through words.
With this album I had the opportunity to write for instruments I wouldn’t have ever thought of writing for in the past. In particular synths! They play a big part in the album and really create the scifi landscape I was trying to achieve. I felt throughout the whole project that I had the freedom to create whatever I wanted and as a composer that felt truly liberating!

Any plans for a follow up?

Well Daren is already writing volume 2 so hell yeah!!!

Tell us something about your self that not many people know.

Apparently I’m a bus nerd! And I love to do impersonations!

Check out Charlie's website and download Tales Of New Albion from Bandcamp.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Tales Of New Albion - the Soundtrack Album

Well this is something a bit different from my usual posts.  A while back when I was doing a few readings of my Steampunk stories I asked Charlie (Charlotte Savigar) if she would do a piece of music as an intro for me.  One thing led to another and now we are very proud to announce that we have released a whole album's worth of music to accompany the book.  I'll post an interview with the composer and more about the specific tunes, but make sure you check it out here on Soundcloud.

If you like what you hear, then please do purchase the album from Bandcamp.  You can also order a signed copy of the book along with a signed CD of the soundtrack from Bandcamp, so check that out too.

A lot of the tracks are real earworms, but make sure you at least check out Ellen Hall, Tobias Fitch and Lost In The Great White - as these are just great pieces of music.  Once again there is great artwork by Frog Morris to accompany the release.  Charlie wrote, performed and mixed all these tracks and we had them mastered by Gethin John at Hafod Mastering just outside Cardiff.

I can't recommend this highly enough, so please do check it out and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Conversation With An Imp

It was dusk as I wandered drowsily and stiff with the fatigues of the day out into my garden, a bag of mealworms clutched in my hand to feed my local hedgehogs. There was a simple science to doing this. Your common or garden Hedgehog’s diet overlaps with both birds and cats, so choosing something that cats are not too fond of is ideal. Mealworms fit this bill perfectly, however the local birds will happy eat those, so you have to wait to put them out until it is late enough to prevent the birds swooping and nabbing the lot. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so you never see them in daylight unless they are unwell. Right now the warm evening light was a hazy shade of light orange, evocative and dreamlike.

With a small start I realised that standing at the bottom of my lawn in the little hollow near the bush where the fox liked to snooze was a curious looking child, or perhaps a midget as its face was noticeably older looking that its size would imply. Not dissimilar to how the infant Jesus is often portrayed with oddly mature features. It was about four feet tall and dressed plainly in white or very pale blue, its curiously androgynous features were friendly and it had a pleasant, calming smile as though it was delighted to see me. Nevertheless it chilled me rigid and a shiver pierced me through. It raised a hand slightly in a manner perhaps intended to relax me.
‘Please do not be afraid, we will not harm you.’ It spoke in a curiously adult voice, neither distinctly male nor female sounding, but sympathetic and mild. Not for the last time I was inclined to believe it. ‘Can I help you?’ I asked, trying to be calm although my throat was very dry and the words did not come without gruffness attached.
‘No,’ replied the imp with the merest of shrugs. ‘Perhaps we help you.’ It was a statement rather than a question. I swallowed and shook my head slightly to see if that helped in any way. The light continued its lazy drift through the oranges towards burnt ochre. I found myself curious that it had said “we”.
‘How many of you are there?’ I rasped dryly, flicking my eyes around nervously to see if there was more of its kind lurking nearby.
‘Difficult to say,’ it replied in a tone that seemed to imply that it would be hard to explain, rather than it being uncertain on the numbers. It was still slightly creepy though; if it had intoned, “We are legion” in the voice of the devil, I would have been no more perturbed.
‘Are you from round here?’ the question sounded daft even as I formed it.
‘Difficult to say,’ it intoned soothingly again, ‘we have been here before.’
Something felt very strange suddenly, perhaps it was the light. It was darker, but still eerily lit in ruddy tones creeping towards crimson. The clothing of the creature, for I dared not consider it human now, seemed more brilliantly white than before. This brought something to mind and without really considering it I blurted,
‘Are you an angel?’ The creature grinned broadly at this as though amused by the thought, however it shook its head subtly in a way that did not imply anything other than a simple denial.
‘No,’ it replied kindly. However it pre-empted further questions with an expanded explanation this time. ‘What we are is difficult to say. We can tell you what you are.’ The weighting on these words gave me the distinct impression that it didn’t mean me personally, but something much wider, more encompassing. I gulped but could not muster any words at this point as I was distinctly freaking right out (without any difficulty). ‘You are Selfish.’ It continued, still with a simple disarming smile and happy tone to its voice as though discussing a much-cherished pet. Fair enough, I thought but again could not muster any words at this point. The benevolent imp continued to smile pleasantly and its eyebrows lifted just a millimetre or two as if wondering if I had further questions. I did not know what to think. Somehow my lips found shapes and air left my heaving lungs.
‘Why are you here?’ I seemed to have asked, although I was not sure if I had actually spoken out loud. I was suddenly aware of my heart hammering somewhere amongst the veins in my neck.
‘To visit you,’ stated the imp, but again it seemed to imply that the visit was not to me personally. ‘To study and see if we can change.’ I gulped hard, not really following what it was saying. ‘Your planet will continue to revolve,’ it added, but my brain was now spinning sufficiently all on its own. A shudder of dizziness washed over me and wondered if I might faint. ‘We have been here before,’ it repeated, ‘we were selfish.’ This last addendum seemed to suggest that the selfish could overcome their inwardly greedy ways. Why was it speaking to me though, on this warm, sleepy evening that now ebbed inexorably into night? ‘To not be selfish, you must do something that does not benefit yourself,’ spoke the smiling face as though it had read my thoughts, could it read my thoughts? Was it even real?
‘How?’ I croaked in my pitchy head voice.
‘You feed the hedgehogs,’ it replied soothingly in a way that was neither fully instruction nor fully statement.
‘Feed the hedgehogs,’ I mouthed parrot fashion. I could not fathom the implications of the sentence. ‘Literally or metaphorically?’ I worded, astonished at my sudden evolution into some sort of philosophy professor.
‘It is difficult to say, but you should know.’ My head felt clamped now, the whole unreality of this discourse was clanging like a bell in my ears. ‘Hedgehogs are not aware that they are endangered.’ There was a rustling sound from the bushes and a snuffling that did not dissipate. I held still, I knew that hedgehogs have poor eyesight, but would depart pronto if they heard me move. ‘Life is fragile,’ said a gentle voice from somewhere.
‘Life is lumpy,’ I replied, there was the slightest of slight chuckles.
‘This will be hard for you to recall, you do not believe’.
‘You mean no one will believe me, or I will not remember?’ I do not know if I thought this or spoke it acoustically, since neither my garden nor my inner monologue has an echo. 

The sky was dark now, the soft amber glow from the garden lights was the only faint illumination. I could hear the hedgehogs snuffling in the shrubbery and found some residual energy to quietly move and place their food on the ground in the usual spots. I felt like something profound had happened, but I could not tell if it had really taken place or I had imagined it. I was not sure what the difference would be. Sometimes I am awoken suddenly at night by the sound of my doorbell, but no one is at the door; it felt like that.
 ‘I wonder if the hedgehogs will survive our selfishness?’ It was night, and I was talking to myself.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tales Of New Albion - it's here!

So after three and a half years of writing (not constantly mind, just every now and then) about a dozen live readings and two exhausting days of proof-reading (I didn't do a very good job) - my first book is actually available for all to buy and read.  It's a collection of ten Steampunk short stories that may, or may not, be connected in some way - and you can get it as both a Kindle download or a mighty 221 page paperback (with big print and a cover illustration by Frog Morris).  I'll do some "thank you"s below, but without further ado here are the links you need:

Buy Now On Amazon (please, please leave me a review!)

Tales Of New Albion Website (for joining the mailing list to hear about readings and follow-up publications).

It's been quite an emotional journey in some ways and none of this would have happened without the following wonderful people, in no particular order:

Carolyn Whitlock - who shared her writing with me and encouraged me to get back to using my imagination with her own sci-fi stories and ideas.

Ben Henderson - I'd never heard of Steampunk until I met Ben, the next thing I know I'm dreaming a complete Steampunk short story in my sleep (the first one in the book).  Foolishly he agreed to let me read it at one of his splendid Steampunk Convivials and then I realised I actually had better write something!

Frog Morris and his lovely wife Victoria - for being encouraging friends, keeping me creative and (in Frog's case) doing the wonderful cover illustration.  I owe you so much guys!

Catherine Paver - for actually laughing at my wordplay jokes and encouraging me to keep going.

Darren Gooding - for support at all stages (especially when reading to just one person) and planting the seeds of the final chapter in my head when he said that I should include the homeguard in some way.

Emma King - for so much support and love, more laughter and actually helping me realise I could be an author.

Peter / Otis Manousakos - for taking my writing seriously and actually doing some proof-reading for me, plus loud conversations over coffee that I miss.

Lynda Savigar - my dear mum-in-law, who encouraged me at every turn and chased me up for copies of the stories.  The cats are her fault too!

Maura Sutton, Tom Clements, Brian Hurrell, Rev. Fruitbat, Jude Cowan Montague, Tim Barlow, Chris Simonite, Steve Jones and everyone else who requested copies of the story and gave me encouragement along the way.  Sorry if I've forgotten anyone... do remind me!!

To the Puffin Club for commending one of my stories many years ago. I re-wrote it (for the third time) as episode II of this collection.

Penultimately to all the lovely Steampunk folk who listened, commented, laughed, applauded and maybe even shed a tear during my readings.  You are all lovely.

Finally to my partner, inspiration and muse - Charlie Savigar - without who's relentless encouragement and chiding to write I might well have given up.  I owe you a lot, thank you for being there.