2016 – Not The Best Of Years

So, 2106 is coming to an end – and good riddance too. It has not been a great year for all sorts of reasons. For a start, we lost a lot of great performers across the arts – people like Victoria Wood, Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Greg Lake, Prince and too many others. Hollywood continues to grind out the retreads and remakes (although Deadpool was good). In politics we had the twin disasters of Brexit and Donald Trump. Far too many wars and acts of terrorism continue to plague the world in general. Religion and political ideology continue to be used as justification for hate, prejudice and bigotry. I could go on (really, I could!), but enough is enough.

Not everything was bad. There was some great music released (including albums from Dream Theater, Babymetal, Ana Popovic, Roxette, The Monkeys, Epica and Green Day), small publishers continued to release the books that the traditional publishers are too afraid to, there were a few good tv shows starting or continuing (The Good Place, No Tomorrow, People Of Earth, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Crazyhead, Frequency, Sweet Vicious, Lucifer) among the almost overwhelming mass of mediocre and just plain bad, and my wife finally dumped her too stressful job for an altogether pleasanter one.

But the main reason for this blog is to look at what I’ve been up to this year, in terms of writing anyway.

I have had no books published in 2016. This is a depressing but true statistic. However, this does not mean I’ve been doing nothing.

My short stories Assassin On The Seventy-Fourth Floor (Crimson Streets), The Light Ship (Electric Spec) and Young At Heart (reprint in Red Fez) made an appearance, and two more (Castle Ruins and The Great Prophecy) have been accepted but not yet released. I also had a story, Locusts – The Return, included in a special tribute book for Guy N Smith (Hell Of A Guy) which is not on general sale.¬†Permission has been given for the story to appear elsewhere, but I haven’t decided whether I want to do that just yet.

I wrote a novelette (Vampire Worms), a novel (Eyes Of The Raven) and am currently finishing off the final draft of another novel that still doesn’t have a title! And as soon as this draft is done, I’m finally starting on the third and final novel in The Szuiltan Trilogy, The Offspring.

In terms of works that are out there waiting for responses, I have three short stories, a novelette, a novella, and two novels. This is not a lot compared to some writers, but it’s pretty good for me.

The other thing I’ve done in writing is sign up (again) to Wattpad, and this time I’m determined to make use of it. There are already several short stories, the whole of The Ant Man, and samples of currently unpublished work up there. My main project on it is to, gradually, put the whole of my science fiction thriller novel A World Of Assassins on there. Everything is free to read, and it seems a good place to spread the word ūüôā

As far as my other creative outlets are concerned…

The 1850 Project (the collaboration between my son and me) is far from dead, it’s just resting. Mainly because our home studio (or Jonathan’s bedroom as it’s sometimes known) is in complete disarray, and we can’t afford the studio time we would need in our regular place (Whitby Studios) or anywhere else at the moment.

Art. It’s a very long time since I attempted any serious drawing or painting, but my wife was determined to get me to paint something for her. It’s taken her a long time, but she finally won, and I have taken up the brush and the acrylics again, after many years, to produce the painting you see below, which she seems to like (thankfully). I suspect that, now that I’ve started, I will probably continue in 2017. It was fun and quite relaxing to do.

painting-2016

That’s about it. I won’t be sorry to see 2016 go, and can only hope that 2017 will be a better year for all of us. The one thing I can promise is that I’ll continue to write, successfully or otherwise. I hope some of you¬†will continue to read, too.

Thank you for reading.

Free Serialisation Of A Novel

A few weeks back I began a process of putting various complete older short stories/novelettes, and excerpts from new, currently unpublished novellas and novels, on Wattpad, where people can read them for free.

Last week (or was it earlier this week? I forget!) I began a new project on there: the serialisation of one of my older novels – the science fiction thriller A World Of Assassins (click here for full info on the book). So far I have uploaded four chapters and, although there is no regular schedule, I will continue uploading chapters on the basis of “several a week” until the full work is there. For free.

I want to see how this works, and if it generates any interest. If it does, I may consider doing the same with other self-published novels and, perhaps, even a work in progress (second draft at least… I wouldn’t want to inflict a first draft on anyone!). I know others have done similar things with some success, over time. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Click the cover image below to go to Wattpad and get started.

Thank you for reading.

A World Of Assassins

 

Musical History

Lately I’ve been looking back at some of my old recordings and trying to get some improvement in the sound to make it possible to put a few songs out there, just for fun. They were all originally recorded onto cassette tapes, so you can imagine that hiss and degradation of the actual tape over time play a large part in the current sound. Fortunately, a few years back, I converted the vast majority of songs, first onto CD and then to mp3 files, which at least means I can mess about with them a little. I’m using the free software Audacity which is very good, but I’ve no doubt someone with professional software and the knowledge to use it could do better. However, my limited knowledge and free software is all I have. I can live with that.

I sometimes forget just how long I’ve been writing and recording music. My first tape, imaginatively called The Songs Of Neil Davies, was done in 1975, and the last one (on cassette) was done just after my met my wife, and was equally imaginatively called Cathy, and recorded in 1994. That’s almost 20 years of recording onto cassette! That gives me 67 cassettes of music (a mixture of C60s and C90s – that’s 60 minutes and 90 minutes respectively). There’s been a couple of mp3/CD albums since then, and, most recently, two albums (mp3/CD) under the name The 1850 Project, written and recorded with my son.

I also have an old note about a tape called The Book which was completely deleted and destroyed. It was done in 1976 and I have a vague memory of it being a, no doubt, pretentious concept tape with a science fiction theme. I can’t remember any of the music, but I must have thought it terrible as, despite some pretty awful songs here and there on other tapes, it’s the only tape that was completely wiped from existence! I wish I’d kept it, just for curiosity’s sake. Oh well.

What I wanted to briefly look at here are those cassettes, the method in which they were recorded and what they show about the state of my mind at a given time. They also highlight my inclination towards obsession, particularly when it came to girls.

The majority of my albums in the 1970s, and the first years of the 80’s, were recorded using two cheap cassette player/recorders. I would record a track on one, then play it back, singing or playing along with it, and recording that onto the second cassette. Then, playback, play along and record onto the other one and so one, depending on how many overdubs I wanted to do. Each overdub seriously degraded the quality of the sound, so the simpler songs with fewer overdubs tended to come out the best.

My instruments were a guitar, an amp, a couple of effects pedals, and whatever keyboard my dad had in the house at the time (an upright piano for a time, then an organ). I sang straight into the cassette recorder, no mic. The guitar doubled as the bass (clean sound, lower strings only, often played with fingers to give a slightly deeper sound). I had no drums. Instead I had a couple of chairs (an old armchair and a kitchen chair with a cushion on it) and a couple of bamboo sticks (once tried some metal rods, but the wood was better). The armchair became the bass drum (hit with the stick, no pedal obviously) and the cushion on the kitchen chair the snare (and everything else). No cymbals, but an occasional tambourine which “magically” appeared from school one day!

In 1977, while in the band Liquid Pig, the other guitarist, Dave Roberts, kindly lent me his reel to reel tape recorder, which had an overdub facility. I used this to create 90 minutes of music on an album called High Rock. No drums (the clearer recording made the chair-drums sound even worse than usual) but some decent clear recordings with guitar and vocals.

Also in 1977, one of the tapes (There but for the grace of God and the opportunity) has some recordings from a rehearsal session for Liquid Pig, again recorded by Dave’s reel to reel. Unfortunately I decided to overdub some vocals and tambourine on a few of these tracks. Wish I hadn’t. I don’t have the originals!

At times during the 70’s (and usually via people in other local bands) I was able to use wah-wah pedals and, once, an echo machine. Actually the echo machine was overused, but you can’t blame me for wanting to play with a new toy!

My obsession for most of these tapes was Barbara (the girlfriend of a friend of mine), and many have a dedication to her on the inserts. There was a memorable interruption to this via Vanda (out of which I got the album The Week (V.K.)) and also Lorraine (several songs on several tapes about her) but my crush on the unavailable Barbara was the underlying constant for much of the 70’s. Finally, towards the end of the decade, with interest in Barbara fading, I briefly discovered the daughter of our new next door neighbours (the album Shades Of Ailsa came from that) and found a fascination in the barmaid (and now shop worker) Michelle. In all cases, actual relationships were either non-existent (Barbara, Ailsa, Michelle) or very short lived (Vanda, Lorraine) – and by short I mean a week or just over. I was a lonely boy!

In fact, since the very start I had been clinically depressed, but because of medical standards at the time and an old family doctor, this was not diagnosed until much more recently (and by the much better doctors available to me after the family moved). My only diagnosis back then was “the general malaise of an overweight boy” and a course of tonic pills. It was during this time that I began self harming.

During the 80’s four¬†things changed – first, I discovered drum machines (starting with a very basic one borrowed from a friend, then moving to one that worked on the Atari 800XL computer I had, and finally to a very decent Sony one, bought by my brother Philip and incessantly borrowed by me). Second, I bought a new guitar amp which had twin cassette recorders built in. With these I could overdub back and forth anything that went through the amp, with much less degradation in quality than previously. This also meant I had to buy a mic to allow vocals and acoustic guitars to be recorded. Guitar and drum machine went straight into the amp. Third, my brother also bought an MX Music Computer, complete with full size keyboard and cartridges for different sounds. I discovered synth and keyboards began to play a much bigger part in my writing and recording. Finally, I developed a new obsession, with the youngest daughter of a friend of my mother (and whose older sister¬†I used to play with when I was younger). This was Andrea and the age of A.T.I.P.I. appearing on the tape inserts. I don’t wish to mention full names here, but I will say that the last three letters stand for “Is Perfection Itself”. Told you I was lonely, and very very depressed for much of the time.

The quality of recordings improve from this time, and I also begin playing with music on the computer (even writing my own simple program to allow me to preset drum beats and also music notes).

My obsession with Andrea is chronicled over five albums (tapes) in 1982 and 1983. These are A.T.I.P.I., The Outward Trend, Country Sun, To Andrea With Love and The 5th Hour. You can then see it fading gradually during 1983 with albums like Still True (For You), Rocking Back and Thoughts.

Musically, my influences over all this time were fairly wide. Early on it was almost exclusively Classic Rock like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Status Quo (every local band did Status Quo covers back then!). In the mid Eighties I discovered Prince and his influence is very obvious at times (dangerously close to rip-off in a couple of songs). It was listening to Prince that also relaxed my lyric writing, and the occasional swear word began to appear.

By the time I met Cathy in 1991 and fell truly in love for the first (and probably last) time, my writing and recording had slowed dramatically. In fact, the last tape I had recorded was in 1989. Meeting Cathy inspired one more album (called, of course, Cathy) in 1994, and then I temporarily retired from writing and recording music.

Until 2000 when I began playing with two new things – mp3.com and sampling. I’d done a little sampling back in 1987, largely on an album called Sample It (and you say my album titles aren’t subtle!), but this was bigger stuff. Creating whole songs just from sampled sounds¬†(all made freely and legally available I might add), and on mp3.com you could upload your songs and even make CD! Remember, this was early days for this kind of thing. The result was the album Age in 2000.

Then, in 2001, I rediscovered my interest in playing the guitar and the resulting album, called New Dawn, featured both guitar driven songs and synth driven songs. I’d dropped the samples by then.

Then, silence… until a rash promise to my son to pick up the guitar again for his 18th and my 50th birthdays (a day apart in March 2009). The result was The 1850 Project, my first experience in a proper recording studio and my first live gig since the late 1970s! Our first CD (released alongside the live gig) was simply called The 1850 Project. We went on to write and record a second CD (and much better one I think) The Family. Both of these albums are available through iTunes, Amazon and elsewhere.

Although my book and story writing is now my main focus, I still want to write and record music and, with my son, there are plans and home demos towards a third album… the main thing stopping us is money for studio time. Since my redundancy, that has proved too expensive to justify.

And that’s it, the brief history of my musical journey (it might not seem it to you but, believe me, it was brief!), from overdubbing between two cassette tape recorders to multi-track home recording onto computer and proper studio recordings. Quite a change!

SOLO DISCOGRAPHY (if you can call it that when it’s mostly on cassette tapes!)

  1. The Songs Of (1975)
  2. Space (1975)
  3. 3rd Try (1976)
  4. 4B (1976)
  5. Intruders (1977)
  6. There But For The Grace Of God… And The Opportunity (1977)
  7. I Rest My Case (1977)
  8. High Rock (1977)
  9. Blonde (1977)
  10. Christine (1978)
  11. Attitudes (1978)
  12. The Week (V.K.) (1978)
  13. Night Walkers (1979)
  14. She’s In There Somewhere (1979)
  15. Back Again (1979)
  16. Is This The Best You Can Do? (1979)
  17. Never For Free (1979)
  18. Back In The Old Frame (1979)
  19. Shades Of Ailsa (1979)
  20. Lights In The Sky (1979)
  21. Eye Opener (1979)
  22. Innocence (1979)
  23. Still Rock N Roll (1980)
  24. Dedicatory (1980)
  25. More Of The Same With A Difference (1980)
  26. Mystic Nights (1980)
  27. Perseus (1980)
  28. Legend (1980)
  29. Schoolies (Short N Sweet) (1980)
  30. Morning Light (1980)
  31. The Man It Was That Cried (1980)
  32. Footprints (1981)
  33. Romantic Fool (1982)
  34. Electric Amnesia (1982)
  35. Guitar 400 (1982)
  36. A.T.I.P.I. (1982)
  37. The Outward Trend (1982)
  38. New Outlook (1982)
  39. Country Sun (1982)
  40. The 5th Hour (1982)
  41. To Andrea With Love (1983)
  42. Still True (For You) (1984)
  43. Rocking Back (1984)
  44. Thoughts (1984)
  45. Strange Mood (1985)
  46. Words In The Silence (1985)
  47. Regress (1985)
  48. Commentary (1985)
  49. Small Talk (1985)
  50. One Of Many (1986)
  51. These Days (1986)
  52. Voyeur Of Love (1986)
  53. Summer Illusion (1987)
  54. Sample It (1987)
  55. Cannibalistic Tendencies (1987)
  56. Two Weeks In The Past (1987)
  57. Secret Love (1987)
  58. Legend (Rewritten/rerecorded) (1987)
  59. Colin By Neil (1988)
  60. Strange Journey (1988)
  61. Inspirations And Desperations (1988)
  62. That Girl Again (1988)
  63. Who Wants Reality? (1989)
  64. The Closest I’ll Get To A Christmas Album (1989)
  65. Approaching Finals (1989)
  66. The Ultimate Combination (1989)
  67. Cathy (1994)
  68. Age (2000)
  69. New Dawn (2001)

Neil Davies on Soundclick

THE 1850 PROJECT DISCOGRAPHY

  1. The 1850 Project (2009)
  2. The Family (2012)

The 1850 Project on Facebook

The 1850 Project on Reverbnation

The 1850 Project on Soundclick

 

Not published does not equal not writing

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It’s been a short while since I had anything new published (seems like forever, but in reality only since November 2nd 2015, when The Last Harpy was published by Omnium Gatherum), but that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything finished and waiting, the key word being “waiting”.

I currently have 7 pieces of work out there, looking for either a publisher or an agent (depends on how I was feeling on any particular day). And I know that’s nothing compared to many other writers.

Among the longer pieces, I have…

A 51,500 word pulp science fiction novel that’s been sitting with the same publisher for over a year, but they keep assuring me it’s on the pile.

A 29,600 word zombie apocalypse-type horror novella, first of a series, looking for a publisher (or with a possibility of being self published).

A 12,400 word horror novelette out doing the rounds.

A 56,900 word occult-tinged murder novel, not long finished and freshly out looking for interest.

And I’m also 41,000 words into a new horror novel, and the remaining is all planned out.¬†I should have this one ready for the first edit before too long.

So, I’ve been busy and, hopefully soon, I’ll have some new published work out there to share with you. Until then, please be patient. I promise there’s a lot more yet to come.

Thank you for reading.

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The Risen Dead

Tidying up The Risen Dead, a novella, the first in a series called The Givers Of Life.¬†At the moment, with the sad demise of Screaming Dreams (who it was placed with), I have no publisher and am having difficulty finding one willing to take on a series of zombie-based novellas. Therefore (and with my children’s permission… read old blogs to find the relevance of that!) I may consider self publishing it.
 
No absolute final decision yet, and I am still looking at publishers (anyone know any zombie and series friendly ones out there?).
 
I thought I’d take this unexpected and unfortunate opportunity to go over the novella one final time… it was originally finished over a year ago, and I haven’t read it since then. Fresh eyes will always find things to change.
 
The novella does stand on its own, but I really wanted to go further into its world, which is why I plan to do a series. And there are some questions deliberately left unanswered, or at least vague. Lots more to write on this.
 
And if you don’t like zombies? Give it a try anyway, when it comes out from whatever source. I hope I’m bringing a slightly different slant on the genre, rather than retreading the same old themes, but ultimately you, the reader, will decide that.
 
Thank you.

Two Martial Arts Movies

This may not be about writing, but it is about entertainment.

Disclaimer – I do not claim to know martial arts. However, I do claim to have watched a LOT of martial arts movies, from Shaw Brothers, Golden Harvest, the lowest budget Hong Kong kung fu movies through to Hollywood blockbusters. I therefore feel it’s ok for me to comment on the fight scenes in the following two recently watched films.

Kill ‘Em All

Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/asKEqfuK8mE

My problem is this. The film goes to some lengths at the beginning to show these killers from different places, with different backgrounds and, in theory, different styles of fighting. However, when they actually fight, apart from the most superficial of differences, they all fight in exactly the same way. The choreography is not unique for these people with styles that are meant to be so different from each other. Mind you, at least the fight scenes are shot in a  way that allow you to see, and enjoy, the moves. Unlike my next film.

Extraction

Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/ZcN7hUKFgYU

This is one of those movies that, in order to try and generate excitement in the fight scenes, insists on shaky camera work and very fast cutting. The end result is that you don’t get to see much of the actual fighting, which I find very frustrating. Especially as they have Gina Carano in the cast. What’s the point of having someone who is more than capable of performing the fight choreography, and then cut it in such a way that it could have been any actor, physically capable or not? Total waste of talent.

Both of the above were films I had some hopes for, and both ended up being disappointing (and not just because of the fight scene issues described above). It was especially disappointing to watch Bruce Willis sleepwalk and mumble his way through his scenes in Extraction. And the criminal underuse of Gina Carano.

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Celebrate Spring With The Village Witch

Omnium Gatherum, publishers of Hard Winter:The Novel, The Village Witch and The Last Harpy, have launched a contest to win some goodies for The Village Witch – including ebook and paperback copies. Entering is as simple as sharing the good news.

Take a look at it here… and good luck!
Celebrate Spring with The Village Witch

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