The Beatles’ Lost Album

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Last time, Rob used the natural phenomenon of the Black Moon as a shameless marketing opportunity. Now for something a little different…

A few weeks ago, my son James and I went on an outing to London to see the wonderful new movie Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years. For those of you that don’t know, the film is a documentary about the Beatles during their heyday when they were the biggest band in the world – and it’s pure joy. I’m not going to review it here. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian says it better than I ever could: “A wave of euphoria and happiness pours from the screen, and [director Ron] Howard’s movie surfs that wave.” Read his review here.

James is twelve but has been a Beatles fan since he pilfered my Sergeant Pepper CD some years back (clever boy) so we spent the following few hours basking in our favourite bits and geeking out over the movie’s many treasures; speculating on what the Beatles would be doing now if all still alive (I’m certain Bob Geldof would have got them back together for Live Aid!).

This speculation led to us setting ourselves a fun exercise: to put together our own Beatles album from the solo work released following their break-up. It should sound something like a Beatles record released around 1974, with two sides like a real LP and a title. We also set a loose formula (from which I strayed): four Lennons, four McCartneys, two Harrisons and a Ringo!

So here are our lost Beatles albums:

DREAM AWAY by James

Side 1: Cold Turkey (Lennon), Gimme Some Truth (Lennon), Monkberry Moon Delight (McCartney), Working Class Hero (Lennon), Wah Wah (Harrison)

Side 2: Let Me Roll It (McCartney), I Dig Love (Harrison), Crippled Inside (Lennon), It Don’t Come Easy (Starr), On You (McCartney), All Things Must Pass (acoustic from Beatles Anthology, Harrison)

SHINE ON, EVERYONE by Rob

Side 1: Instant Karma (Lennon), Let ‘Em In (McCartney), Crippled Inside (Lennon), Six O’Clock (Starr), You (Harrison)

Side 2: #9 Dream (Lennon), Another Day (McCartney), How? (Lennon), If Not For You (Harrison), Maybe I’m Amazed (McCartney)

We’ve playlisted them up so you can listen to them on Spotify (technology, eh?). Just follow the links:

DREAM AWAY

SHINE ON, EVERYONE

We’re rather proud of our efforts, and it was great to hear some of John, Paul, George and Ringo’s solo adventures for the first time. I’m particularly impressed at how edgy James has gone with his album (and Working Class Hero is an epic pick!).

What would you choose? What’s on your Beatles lost album? Feel free to tell us in the comments section, or on Facebook.

Until next time. Shine on, everyone!

Kraitt out

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If you enjoyed The Beatles’ Lost Album, check out some more of my other posts at Roblogtime. You can also read my self-published novel Black Moon, available now on Amazon Kindle. For more details, visit the Black Moon website at www.black-moon.online.

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Black Moon TONIGHT!!

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Last time, Rob self-published his YA novel BLACK MOON on Kindle. He has been a little busy since so this is his first blog for several weeks. So far, the book has been selling like hot cakes that not very many people are aware of but selling nonetheless….

In an amazing twist of good publicity, the people of Britain will be able to experience the glory (or not) of a Black Moon this very evening! Click here for a full explanation from those nice people at the Daily Telegraph.

SO this gives me the opportunity to remind every single one of you that my YA novel BLACK MOON is OUT and available on Amazon. You can visit the official website here or go straight to Amazon for a downloadable copy. Here are some glowing review quotes:

A fantastic book.” P Courtney

Highly recommended if the long summer days are starting to send any parents potty!” RG

A beautifully written, captivating story.” SuSu

These reviews may or may not be written by people I know!

Judge for yourself. Buy it now! And check out the Black Moon tonight but it may be underwhelming as it will likely be a dark circle against a dark sky – but then you can’t have everything!

Oh and watch out for mad men on the moors!

In other news, I hope to have something exciting to tell you about the book very soon. I’m working on making it available in actual book form! Not just as an e-book! Exciting times so watch this space.

Kraitt out!

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An actual astronaut digs into his copy of Black Moon

 

It’s business time (almost).

Last time, Rob’s novel BLACK MOON was sent out to publishers…and sent straight back! Yes, he received the nicest of rejections and huge encouragement but no mainstream publishers accepted his work. So here we are…

Hello, everyone. Sorry for the radio silence. I’ve been busy.

The novel has been proofed and corrected (thanks to Jodie Hatley for your sterling work). My brilliant brother Steve has designed an eye-catching cover for me. So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks building a website. If you’d like to see it, follow this link: www.black-moon.online. There, you’ll find the cover design and a blurb for the book. There’s also a place for visitors to make contact so feel free to send a message. Either way, please do check it out so the visitor counter looks a bit more respectable. In advance, here’s a sneaky peak at the cover design…

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Publication is coming. I haven’t set the date yet but it’s looking very much like early July. My next post will announce the day. Until then…

Kraitt out!

 

That’s just, like, your opinion…

overcoming-writers-block-nonprofit-bloggingLast time, I was drunk on the heady euphoria of completing  a crazy challenge to post every day for a month! Previous to that, I was telling you about my writing process prior to self-publishing a bottom-drawer novel called Black Moon. Now, read on…

Having been hit by the notion of writing a novel back in early 2008, and after a rigorous editing process under the intense scrutiny of literary agent Elinor Cooper, my novel was as ready as it was ever going to be.

Elinor is a good friend and, at the time, was my colleague at A P Watt literary agency (she is now flying high at Diamond Khan & Woods). She was a young book agent with a host of contacts and really believed in my book. She had supported me throughout the writing process with some superb editorial commentary. I felt like a real author! We were a dream team and ready to unleash this undoubted blockbuster on to the publishing scene.

So out it went! Elinor compiled a list of amazing editors at the great publishers in the land and fired Black Moon at their reading piles on May 22nd 2009.

I’m very excited about this book; BLACK MOON is taut, fast-paced, incredibly inventive, but also moving and richly detailed. Thanks, Coop!

For the next few weeks and months, I waited with breath that wasn’t just baited, it was caught and held tight like I was a free diver torpedoing to the bottom of the ocean! Try holding your breath for the time it takes an average publisher to respond to a submission – even metaphorically!

And then the responses – or should I say rejections – rolled in…

The premise is great (of course it is) but that the execution isn’t developed enough…too heavy on introspection but also lacking the emotional depth to make it convincing and involving. Oh dear!

I did enjoy BLACK MOON. Hurrah! You have an urgency in the narrative that makes the action fast-paced and readable and I did begin to care about Cat. Too kind! Having said that, I do have reservations. Here it comes. As it stands at the moment it feels unsatisfactory with nothing resolved and no glimpse at where Cat may go next, leaving the reader unsatisfied and not necessarily wanting more… Drat!

I enjoyed it a lot – you are absolutely right about the pace and action, and the voice is nice too. I have a nice voice! It sounds like the author would be brilliantly promotable. Only if you shoot my good side, of course. However, we’ve seen rather a spate of books with werewolf themes recently BUT IT’S NOT A WEREWOLF BOOK!  combined with the fact that Puffin’s list is very strong on the boys’ side of things already, means that I’m afraid I don’t think it’s something for us. Double drat! 

This book got me, I’ll admit it. Now, this is more like it! I was definitely carried along for the ride by Cat’s witty descriptions of what is happening, but I did find it quite hard at points to identify with Cat. That’s because you’re not a teenage boy with super powers.  The story also felt a little thin without other points of view and voices. Well, it is deliberately written in the first personElinor I did really like Rob’s writing style and think he has great talent. We have something that we are currently trying to acquire that feels a little bit similar to this and so I would feel uncomfortable to take this forward as well. If what we are trying to acquire doesn’t work out, I’ll be in touch but I’m sure you will have sold this by then anyway! Needless to say, she never did get back in touch but it was mighty encouraging all the same. 

This one has certainly sparked a lot of talk! I aim to please. We enjoyed the immediacy of Rob’s writing, and were all completely hooked into the pacy and unexpected developments of the opening chapters. There is no question that the mysterious premise of this book is terribly alluring. With the accent on alluring rather than terribly, I hope. I’m afraid, though, that we have decided not to pursue this. We felt that, after such a strong, dynamic opening the second half became rather unwieldy and overcomplicated. Another one bites the dust!

I struggled with it as it starts off as a very realistic story and then suddenly becomes a sci-fi book. I almost felt disappointed when Cat found out what had happened to him; it’s so unexpected it almost seems farcical. This sounds very negative, I didn’t think it was all bad by any means! The very faintest praise, I guess!

And here are some more that show I was close but no one was offering that elusive cigar…

We did think it was a really interesting and intriguing concept and the writing was pacy but we just didn’t think the writing was quite strong enough to really make this a stand-out title.

I thought it was really well written and atmospheric. However, after some thought, the team felt the conspiracy/mystery element was a little too similar in theme to another book we are publishing next year, so it’s unfortunately not one for our list.

I’m torn on this one. More torn than I thought I’d be when I first started reading it to be honest…I just don’t think there’s quite enough there for a compelling book. I think it has huge potential but needs a lot of work to whip it into shape and I don’t think I’m the editor to do that. 

I admit I’ve been very on the fence about it. I love the set up and the conceit but I’m not sure it’s quite doing enough that’s different. Really sorry, but I don’t think it’s going to be one for us.

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Battered and bruised, Elinor and I discussed making changes to address some of the comments but, to be honest, I had run out of steam. The editing process started to feel like moving furniture. Black Moon is what it is, and we needed to find someone that loved it enough to get right behind it.

None of this means that there won’t be readers out there who’ll dig my shtick. We just failed to find a publisher excited enough to find out. In those dark days of endless rejection, I couldn’t help summoning the spirit of the Dude…

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SO, in an e-publishing industry in which (as of September last year) 60% of e-books sold are self-published, why not have a crack at it?!

It would be rude not to.

Next time, I unveil my book cover and treat you to a blurb. D-Day is upon us, people. Not long now…

Kraitt out!

Zappa #atozchallenge

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You could say the music of Frank Vincent Zappa is an acquired taste but there really is something for everyone in this undoubted genius’s huge back catalogue.

I have to thank my brother Steve for introducing me to Frank, and he certainly made the eyes pop out of my pre-teen head with those filthy lyrics (you actually get swearing in songs?!); unforgettably catchy tunes; incredible musicianship from band members like George Duke, Napoleon Murphy Brock and Steve Vai; and, of course, epic guitar solos.

Zappa’s oeuvre is so diverse and seemingly impenetrable, I couldn’t even begin to point you in the right direction to sample what he has to offer, but the AV Club’s Gateways to Geekery series offers a good beginner’s guide in the article Where to dive into Frank Zappa’s weird, unwieldy discography. Check it out but I wouldn’t blame you for approaching with caution a man who called his children Dweezil and Moon Unit; built a music studio called the Utility Research Muffin Kitchen; and wrote songs with titles like Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow and Theme From The Third Movement of Sinister Footwear.

Zappa was a man who wore many hats: musician, composer, arranger, innovator, satirist and political activist, to name a few. He was also a great story-teller through his songs. I started this blog to showcase my own story-telling so it seems fitting to end this crazy month of daily posting with a story. Today’s link is one of my favourites but I would urge you to seek out the brilliant Joe’s Garage or the galactic Inca Roads.

And, by the way, I DID IT! This is the last post of the darned A to Z Challenge. I now plan to take a week off and return to weekly posts chronicling my self-publishing adventure. The countdown to publication of my novel BLACK MOON begins soon so watch this space.

In the meantime, thanks for reading. Over to Frank…

Kraitt out!

POX #atozchallenge

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PToday, I’m giving you a passage from a science fiction novel that I started and never finished. The novel’s working title is POX and it’s about an outbreak on a distant planet that kills lots of people. I’ve left this one alone for a while but may go back to it in time. First, I have to self-publish my first novel Black Moon on-line, and if anyone likes that, I really ought to write a sequel, so POX may have to wait a little longer.

This passage tells how my collection of doomed characters found their way to deep space in the first space…


From POX Chapter 1: Cook

Experiencing a space bend is pretty harmless to the average human’s constitution but it’s hard to say why as the process is brand new, and the twelve year old who invented it is keeping his cards close to his chest. The official manual is mostly unhelpful, having been written by this pre-teen genius, one Professor Christopher Cook, himself. Pithily and, some say, rather immodestly titled Professor Christopher Cook’s Key to the Universe, the six page pamphlet is light on detail (Cook indeed guards his scientific secrets very jealously), sketchy on fact and full of bad jokes. Here’s that passage on the effect of a space bend on the human subject:

Bending space makes your eyes water. Tears are the only outward sign that you’ve travelled light years through space in a matter of seconds. Subjects have also described a warm gooyness on the inside, a bit like the feeling you get when a group of people sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to you.

As you can see, Cook’s writing style is an irritating mix of the cod-scientific and the chummy. Take this explanation of the technology behind the space bend itself:

Bending space is like using a needle and thread to fold a piece of paper (fig.1). Use needle A to puncture sheet B at points 1 and 2, push points 1 and 2 together, travel down thread to end of needle. In this case, the paper is the space time continuum; the needle is The Cook Space Probe ™ and the thread is The Cook Corridor © .

Very simply speaking, space-bending is the act of grasping on to a distant point in the universe in order to pull it towards you and jump across to that point before allowing space to spring back to its normal state. Cook has remained cagey about what he’s actually discovered, how it works and where the hell he got the idea ever since he published the first e-paper on his breakthrough in New Scientist Holozine. Only his team of scientists know exactly how space-bending works and, seeing as that team consists mostly of his own family, that’s the way it’s going to stay. And after a round of rigorous public tests to prove that the mode of travel is completely safe, the international scientific authorities were delighted to pass space-bending fit for purpose. The message from them seemed to be: if it works and it doesn’t kill you, what’s not to like?!

However, following the release of COS Home Edition (the bending operating system) on the open market in 2106, rules and regulations dictating a strict code of conduct had to be drawn up quickly to avoid some pretty hairy moments. As Cook said in an interview on the Tonight Show back in that same year, “you can’t have people bending space just to go to the dentist!” If the co-ordinates of the bend are not meticulously calculated, continents could literally fall into the sea. This led to the international symposium on space-bending in 2107 and the now infamous “Bend Commandments”, written and quickly copyrighted by the Cook Corporation:

• Bending is for space travel only.
• Do not distract your bend-gineer while space is bending
• No bending within or in close proximity to a planet’s atmosphere.
• No bending directly after mealtimes.
• No bending under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Do not bend for unnecessary or frivolous reasons.
• Do not bend in the interests of crime or fraudulent behaviour.
• Seatbelts are compulsory.
• Always wear a helmet.
• Ties are optional.

There are a host of theories as to how this precocious twelve-year-old genius managed to discover something that had evaded the genius of scientific giants like Einstein, Hawking and Maximillian Zool. Conspiracy theorists say he is a front for a shadowy organisation intent on domination of the universe. Anti-conspiracy theorists ask why an organisation would need to be shadowy in an era where corporations rule everything anyway so why can’t he be a genuine child prodigy? Religious cultists believe that Cook is a messiah sent by the supreme being to help us find nirvana. Satanists point out that he could just as easily have been sent by the Devil as deep space travel has got to finally prove that God doesn’t exist. Whatever he did to arrive at this epic technology, it has made him the richest, most important human on planet earth and he’s ready to meet the rest of the universe.

Up until now, Cook has only permitted use of the space-bending technique within our own solar system but planet-hopping, as he has come to call it, is no longer a thrill. Cook wants to stretch his method a little and has proposed to make a historic space-bending trip to visit Space Station Home One orbiting the planet Eos, some four light years away. The last voyage to that sector by the starship George T Clooney of Project Trailblazer left thirty years ago and only just arrived at Home One. The earth wouldn’t expect to hear of the Clooney’s safe arrival for another ten days using Zool waves, an interstellar communication technology that was mind-numbingly cool when invented in the latter part of the 21st century but seems horribly creaky now. Cook can get to Home One in an instant and be back for supper. While there, he can make an instant call to his mum to ask her to put the kettle on so he has a cup of tea waiting when he arrives home. It’s all thanks to space-bending and he knows too well that it’s the biggest game-changer since the wheel.

In true Christopher Cook style, the young genius plans to make this giant leap in the full glare of maximum publicity. He will pay for the design of brand new ultra definition cameras that can capture the most mindbogglingly real multi-dimensional images and then compress them for the high speed transfer required through his own new Deep Space Messaging service. He will invite a host of pioneers, thinkers and celebrities to share the journey. The ticket will be the hottest in history and dress, of course, will be formal.

The whole business will be pure theatre and every single one of the 10 billion inhabitants of planet earth will know it has happened. And when Cook floods the travel industry with space-bending technology over the next few years, the average family holiday will be a hell of a lot more exciting than the odd trip outside the atmosphere for some boring old zero-G somersaulting. Cook will not only have changed the world, or the solar system. He won’t even have changed the galaxy. Professor Christopher Cook will have changed the whole universe. He’ll be bigger than the big bang itself.

But this is not that historic voyage. As Christopher checks the controls on his console one last time he ruminates on how magnificent it will be if this boring, but necessary, test run goes without a hitch. He has no doubt that it will. He may have fought tooth and nail against the authorities to be permitted to make the first trip to Neo in the gaze of the world but deep down he knew he’d look pretty dumb if it all went wrong. In fact, he’d most probably look pretty dead too, as this is not the first test.

The first two deep space-bending missions went spectacularly wrong, resulting in the kind of seismatomic blasts that would have destroyed Home One and made Eos uninhabitable should he have been aiming at Barnard’s Star instead of half way (just to be safe). Those particular star systems should be okay for a visit again in a couple of centuries.

The third test was perfectly acceptable in that the ship arrived safely but the crew of chimpanzees disappeared entirely and Cook’s team to this day have no idea where the hell they are.

Thankfully, after a return to the drawing board, a lot of soul-searching, and a far more meticulous approach to the basic maths, test voyages four to nine have been entirely successful. The last two have even carried human cargo and nothing has gone wrong whatsoever, apart from those tears Cook mentions in his handbook.

So for test trip number ten, the final voyage before he can unleash deep space-bending to an expectant public, Cook will go all the way to Barnard Star himself with a small crew. They’ll introduce themselves, make sure they’ve bagsied the best rooms and come back to prepare for the real voyage in six month’s time.

Cook swivels around in his chair. He surveys the bridge of the Starship Wilshere and her crew, beavering away on their preparations for the bend. He swivels back.

Was that a squeak?

He swivels around one more time. That was definitely a squeak.

How could they have given him, the man – okay boy,  no, young man…tween? That can’t be right.  Stick with young man. How could they have given him, the young man who is about to transform the universe, a squeaky chair!? He swivels again to make sure but it sounds okay now. He listens carefully but can’t hear any squeaking. He swings backwards and forwards for a second to make sure. Nope. He must have imagined it. Or someone else has a squeaky chair, which isn’t his problem. He swivels back, smoothly and silently; checks the controls again.

Trouble is, Cook doesn’t have anything to do. Not a sausage. Everyone else is rushing around, looking busy, looking very serious and diligent and Professor Cook himself is bored. He is very tempted to check his mobile for messages from his friends back at the control centre on the surface but he really doesn’t want to look like he has nothing to do.

Yes, Professor Christopher Cook came up with the idea for the space bend. He developed the technology so older, more patient scientists with experience of testing and logging and comparing and all that really boring scientific stuff could actually do all the work. He just didn’t invent anything that he could actually do on a real life voyage. He is entirely redundant.


To be continued…some time. Let me know what you think.

Tomorrow, one of my many Queen stories.

Kraitt out!

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Introducing Jack Dixon #atozchallenge

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JLast time, many posts ago (before the A to Z Challenge), Rob started his soon-to-be-self-published novel – a little something like Rocky Balboa coming out of retirement in Rocky 4. Here’s a little more about it in J for Jack Dixon…

Taking inspiration from literatures many Jacks (like…er…Reacher or…Ryan…or even Sprat, of the no fat-eating), the hero in my novel is named Jack Dixon. He wasn’t always a Jack. Until very recently, he was Cat Dixon – a name to which I had given a lot of thought. I had created a cute back story that he was named after Cat Stevens. His parents (brutally murdered at the beginning of the story, poor things) met and fell in love at a Cat Stevens concert so named their son after the bearded one. I even penned a (if I may say so myself) rather beautifully written dream sequence using the lyrics of Moon Shadow. Unfortunately, as per one of the most basic rules of writing, this darling had to be killed.

For a start, every single person who read the manuscript thought he was a girl for at least the first chapter and were just a little confused. Cat is, after all, first and foremost a name for a girl. Think of famous Cats (Deeley, Power – there aren’t many, to be honest), Stevens is the only boy. No wonder he changed his name to Yusef Islam. I’m surprised it took him so long.

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Cat Stevens reacts to yet another joke about his name.

The second reason for changing my hero’s name is that I wasn’t even certain it was working for me. Sure, I love the sound of the name Cat Dixon. It is a heroic name; a good action name. However, for a teenager in the Noughties to have parents who met at a Cat Dixon concert in the Seventies or even Eighties, they’d have to be pretty ancient when they finally decided to have kids. It just didn’t compute for a boy with a younger sister. Besides, I had heard that Mr Islam could be quite picky when it comes to granting the rights to use his work. Seeing that my novel for young adults contains violence and peril (to which the wholesome ex-multi-million-selling-folk-singer-turned-headmaster may object), I didn’t want to be slapped with a law suit for my use of a Cat Stevens song, however sublime the writing (!).

So when I dusted Black Moon down for this self-publishing adventure, the first thing I had to do was find a new name for my boy. It wasn’t easy. Most of the good ones are taken by authors who are actually published already. And what indeed does sit comfortably with Dixon (and if you recognise the picture at the top of this post, you’ll know where I got that from)? Jack came out on top as the best – the only – candidate. Jack is absolutely an action name. J names are always pretty cool-sounding (led by the ultimate J, Bond, but there is also Die Hard’s McClane). It’s short and sharp with a cracking finish. It’s also unpretentious. I wasn’t going to call him Lief or River or Starsailor. Jack Dixon sounds like a hero to me.

And what, I hear you ask, did I do with my gorgeous Moon Shadow passage? Did I have to send it to the desktop trash can? You’ll be pleased to hear that it remains. I just made up my own nursery rhyme to replace Cat’s awesome lyric. It kind of works. You’ll see.

In Jack, I created  an average teenager in an average town in the South East of England. He’s a good kid; a bit cheeky and a bit lacking in direction but his heart is in the right place. The story of Black Moon moves from lovable Jack suffering a horrific tragedy to realising this tragedy has left him with extraordinary powers. He’s fitter, stronger and smarter than he was before. He has to work out what’s happening to him and why, at the same time as solving the mystery of his family’s apparent murder. Sounds pretty good, right?!

When the craziness of this A to Z Blogging Challenge is over, I’ll get back to my self-publishing adventure with weekly blogs leading to publication. The novel has been proof read now so I’m nearly ready. Watch this space.

Now, because I won’t get the chance again, ladies and gentlemen – Mister Cat Stevens…

Kraitt Out!