Festival Fun and Frolics

In my head, it went like this: train, hotel check-in, meet Karen Saunders, meet Julia Eccleshare, PANIC, event, de-panic, eat, sleep, PANIC, event, de-panic, PANIC, event, de-panic, see a bit of the Festival, train, home. And then it felt like it didn’t happen at all. But I’ve got some wonderful memories and a few groovy photos and some witnesses to remind me that it did happen and I loved it. Even the panicky bits.

Just arrived and already panicky.

Just arrived and already panicky.

But let’s rewind to Karen Saunders. If you haven’t read her book, ‘Me, Suzy P’, then do – because Karen Saunders is cool. Anyone who can panic as much as I do about an event is cool in my book.

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The Author’s Yurt – Top Secret Tent!

We met in the Authors’ Yurt and even though I wasn’t supposed to take pictures, I did – but only when there wasn’t anyone around, so you’ll have to imagine two pale, shaky authors meeting for the first time in these surroundings:

As I said, Karen is cool. She’s funny and down to earth and easy to talk to and despite our fear of public speaking, we just clicked. And then Julia Eccleshare turned up.

For those of you who don’t know, Julia is the doyenne of the Guardian’s book review bunch. No matter how high you think the metaphorical buck has to climb before it stops, the summit is Julia Eccleshare. She’s the Guv’nor, the Boss, the Gaffer. She’s also one of the most reassuring, articulate and protective people I’ve ever met. If you’re doing an event, have her chairing; you won’t regret it.

So, the event kicked off. To diffuse my nerves, I did some bounding about and got into the audience. On Julia’s nod, I did something like a reading, with a lovely Art Student called @AbzRon, who dug me out of a hole like a seasoned pro.

My Festival Hero, Abbie!

My Festival Hero, Abbie!

Then it was Karen’s turn. For someone who claimed to be mortally nervous, she didn’t show any signs; told stories (seated) and did a reading (seated). It was like watching Kirk run the Enterprise from the comfy Captain’s Chair: no fluff, no worries – just seamless.

And all the while, Julia Eccleshare egged us on to the point where I forgot my nerves and we were engaged in conversation between ourselves and the audience and all was well in the Baille Gifford Imagination Lab. I can’t thank Julia and Karen enough for being so…well…cool.

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Julia and Karen being cool. Me rigid with fear.

During that day, I also bumped into @sisterspooky off of Twitter-land. If you’ve never encountered her, I suggest you do. Laura (her real name) might be Blogging Royalty, but she’s very funny and so passionate about books it puts most authors to shame. She’s also possessed of a Sid James Laugh and if you have to pay her to be in your audience, it’s money well spent. Fiver’s in the post, Laura! No- honest.

That night was a bit fretful, because I knew I had two events the next day and you can never guarantee that any gig will go as well as the one you’ve just done. So, after a little scran (liver and onions), my journey to the Land of Nod was disembarking.

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Another riveted audience.

The next day started with meeting the Sound Department, to be fitted-up with my mic and my chairperson, Hannah. I think there were four schools present at the gig – once again at the Imagination Lab – and they were brilliant; really up for a laugh. It did feel funny without Karen and Julia, but we soon hit our stride and there were some superb Geek Confessions going on. If you were there and you’re reading this – you guys were fantastic! And a special mention must go to That Teacher. You know who you are and you were brilliant.

Then it was Signing Time, followed by a quick lunch before softly-spoken Mike the Librarian picked me up for a trip to Broughton School. But before I got to the school, I bumped into Liz Bankes! Liz was the first blogger to come to my boat and  interview me about Geekhood: CEotGK. And now, here she was all reborn and glowy, as an author with not one, but two books out! Liz is one of those people who just radiates loveliness. I haven’t read her books yet, but they’re on the list – apparently they’ve got a bit of ‘steam’ to them, so I’ll have to read them over a morning cuppa. Getting old and all that. But they’ve been all critically-acclaimed and everything – so do check them out. But, on with the ramble. Where were we? Ah yes – Broughton School.

Sometimes doing an event throws you in at the deep-end – and this was one of them. I was being thrown into an arena where the students had just arrived at the school, didn’t know each other and didn’t know the staff. If ever there was a time to panic, it was now,

Panic. Before they come in and smell your fear.

Panic. Before they come in and smell your fear.

 

Or so I thought. Broughton School ended up providing me with one of the most attentive audiences I think I’ve ever had. Which just goes to prove that old book and cover adage. If you were there, then my utmost thanks for being good eggs.

And then, I was Officially Done. With an evening to spare, I took a gander up the main drag of the Festival, but didn’t see anything; after an event I do that thing of trying to replay the whole thing and see what worked and what didn’t. It’s like when you’ve had an argument and you’re trying to see if you missed an opportunity for a killer line. But, thanks to everyone involved in each event, there wasn’t any need: I’d met cool people, hung out with cool people, worked with cool people and talked with cool people.

HUGE thanks to Karen and Julia for putting up with my hyperactivity and to the Edinburgh Book Festival for getting me along. The Festival is a very special event and if you haven’t been yet – stick it on your calendar for next year.

Top 5 Geek Twitter Accounts

I’ve only been using Twitter for about a year. Given that I’m a bit of a crusty old technophobe, it’s taken me a while to really understand just what it can do for you. Sure, it works nicely as a promotional tool – but there’s SO much more out there – especially if you’re a geek. Let’s have a butcher’s hook at my Top 5 Geek Twitter accounts.

1)    @DeathStarPR As they put it, “the Death Star has got a bad rap. We’re here to put the record straight.” It’s Star Wars, but it’s funny; those PR guys from the thing that definitely isn’t a moon knock out caustic comments and silly sci-fi based observations by the dozen. As geek Twitter accounts go, it’s one of my favourites.

Sample Tweet: “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Give a fisherman a spaceship and he’ll yell “IT’S A TRAP!” ALL THE DAM TIME!”

 

2)    @LaughingSquid. It’s got a techno-based slant, but LaughingSquid manages to combine art, culture and sciency stuff to make for some really interesting news bulletins. It’s geek Twitter for those who like to be in the know about what’s coming next.

Sample Tweet: “Superhero Depression. One Man’s Complications With Having Superpowers in Real Life http://t.co/LkQOAMmMFZ

 

3)    @GeorgeTakei. That’s right: Mr Sulu. The original one. George might be knocking on a bit, but his Twitter account is funny, philosophical and downright funny. Check him out.

Sample Tweet: “This fix to Alanis Morissette’s not-really-ironic song is quite satisfying…. http://t.co/x4C87jSpRE

 

4)    @DrHorrible. Created by Joss Whedon, this is a geek Twitter account with a twist: it’s the rantings and threats made by the Z-list super-villain from the animated TV series. Plus he goes on about the hero who’s always thwarting him. Plus he makes occasional threats to his followers. I like him.

Sample Tweet: “@josswhedon Bad Horse is out to get you. In a nice way, involving songs and horse dancing.”

 

5)    @DenofGeek. Possibly the ultimate geek Twitter resource. It’s got movie news, interview links, technology stuff – it runs the gamut; whatever your geeky interests are, it’s likely to have an informed and intelligent opinion on it.

Sample Tweet: “17 things we learned on the Amazing Spider-Man 2 set http://t.co/2aM1PSVRq1

If you’ve got any others you think I should know about – drop me a line!

How to Geek Up your Bedroom

Every Geek needs their Lair; that space that leaves the Real World behind and has got your identity stamped all over it. Batman’s Bruce Wayne has the Batcave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude and Geekhood’s Archie has his Lair, known imaginatively as ‘The Lair’.

But trying to create something like this is beyond most of us:

So we need to work with what we’ve got and what we can afford, so let’s look at some simple ways you can geek up your bedroom.

1)    Decoupage. I know; it sounds like something you might do with a horse. But decoupage is a stunningly simple way to geek up even the weariest piece of furniture into something that states your geekhood, in whichever area it may lie. At its most basic, all you need are some old comics or posters or designs on paper that ring your geeky bell – and something called Modge Podge. Here’s a link to the stuff

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Basically, what you do is use the Modge Podge to glue your comics to your chosen piece of furniture – but it’s more than a glue; it acts as a sealant as well, protecting your ‘new’ furniture against wear and tear. If you like the idea, but you’re a bit wary, here’s a link that will give you a look at what’s involved.

2)    Geek up your duvet! Your duvet and pillow cases are blank canvases, just waiting for your geek stamp. But, if your folks won’t let you geek up what you’ve got or what you’ve got has already got a design on, then go to a supermarket or somewhere like Primark and pick up a cheap, plain one. Then, all you need is some fabric paint.

fabric paint

Top tips:

a)    Put your duvet on a flat surface, stretched out as much as you can.

b)    Put a sheet of thick cardboard between the layers of your duvet, so the design doesn’t bleed through into the other side.

c)    Sketch out your design in pencil. You don’t need to do it all as one; you can do it in sections.

d)    Paint in sections, then hang it up to try, between bursts.

e)    Put it through the wash. This’ll help seal the paint and knit it into the fib res of the material.

 

3)    Geek up your storage! The problem with us geeky folk, is that we tend to collect stuff. Whether it’s CDs, DVDs, books, RPG miniatures, film props or whatever – we need space for our precious, obsessively-collected booty. Shelves are a good place to start and decoupage is the simplest route to a geek up.

But the real problem is all those things that won’t sit on shelves too happily; comics, dice, collectibles  – that sort of thing. So, you need to get creative. If your folks won’t spring for those plastic storage boxes, then go for good old cardboard ones; you can pick ‘em up from supermarkets or buy sturdier ones online.

Decoupage is good for these things, but if you want to get really creative, then it’s time to bust out some paints. Most dads tend to have some white emulsion kicking around the garden shed and you can start with that as your base colour. Then, all it needs is a logo: the Bat Signal, maybe? A Star trek insignia? Gandalf’s ‘G’ Rune? Go nuts.

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4)    A mural. This probably the most effective way to geek up your bedroom and really stick your stamp on it – and you don’t have to be artistic! If you want to make sure that your mural really represents what it’s supposed to, then trace your chosen image onto acetate and nobble a projector and project the thin onto the wall. All you’ve got to do then, is trace the outline with a pen or pencil. Once you’ve got the outline, it’s just a case of colouring it in, using paint – and you can make it as complex or as simple as you like.

Do make sure your paints are suitable for the surface they’re going onto; some walls will only take oil-based paint and others prefer acrylic. Get a tester-pot and test it in a small corner – you can always paint over it later.

5)    Geek up your mirror.  It’s the one thing in your bedroom that is probably forgotten about, so why not geek it up and make it art?

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The easiest way to do this is to get creative with things you already have to hand.  Check in your Dad’s tool box for some really strong glue then have at the mirror frame.  A great idea is to use old broken electronics that are beyond repair, unscrew and remove the mother boards and wire works and stick them around the edge of your mirror.  A Steampunk style mirror from things your mum would have probably made you chuck away, eventually!

Have you done a geek up on your room? If you’ve got any tips, I’d love to hear them!

Top 5 Books for Geeks

With the summer holidays here, it’s the perfect time to pick up a book – but not those boring ones they make you read at school. You’ve got six weeks of not having to read Shakespeare or whatever’s on the syllabus; you can pick and choose your brain-fodder. For me, summer reading was – and still is – about leaving the Real World as far behind me as possible. With that in mind, I’ve compiled my Top 5 Books for Geeks. And no, I won’t be plugging mine…

1)    Lord of the Rings. As books for geeks go, this is the Big One. You’ve got six weeks, so you might as well give it a go. In a nutshell – and in case you’ve been living on another planet – it follows the adventures of two Hobbits who are trying to destroy the evil One Ring, before Sauron, the Bad Guy, gets his grubby hands on it.

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It’s got everything that you could want: swords and sorcery, monsters, heroes, villains, plus friendships and enmities that are beautifully depicted. The only thing that might put you off is the language; this is High Fantasy and, at times, the writing can seen a bit Biblical. But this is the story that spawned a whole myriad of fantasy books for geeks, all trying to replicate Tolkien’s mind-bending genius.

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2)    The Borribles. One of the lesser known books for geeks, but a good ‘un. The Borribles is the first in a trilogy that charts the adventures of a bunch of Borribles. Borribles are kids that have fallen between the cracks in society, grown pointy ears and stopped aging; sort of like a bunch of Peter Pans.

But there’s nothing fluffy about this lot; they’re tough and vicious and a dead-shot with a catapult. It’s set in London, where the only real threat to the Borribles’ petty-thieving existence are giant, rat-like creatures: the Rumbles.

It’s funny, sweary and a bit dark, but has gained a cult following. I loved it.

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3)    The Dice Man. This was one of the first books for geeks that I read that I realised was pretty subversive. It’s for older readers and written like a journal. The premise is that, if there’s no such thing as chance and everything is predetermined, then even the roll of a die is fated to happen. Using this, the central figure, Dr Luke Rhinehart, decides to base every decision in his life on the roll of two dice.

As books for geeks go, it’s a bit sweary and sexy, but the idea behind it is so simple and brilliant that I pretty much guarantee you will be carrying a couple of dice in your pocket for a while after. I did. Which is why I ended up climbing out of the window in the middle of Mrs Hughes’ English class. Sorry, Mrs Hughes. The dice made me.

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4)    Mortal Engines. I picked this up when I was just out of college and have been a slave to  the pen of Philip Reeve ever since; this guy knows how to write books for geeks and anyone with an imagination. Think entire cities that move around on tracks. Think a girl with a scarred-up face and a scarred-up soul. Think epic adventure that manages to keep a handle on human relationships, without ever dropping the ball.

 

In fact, think anything by this author and you’re in for a good ride.

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5)    The Amulet of Samarkand. The first of the Bartimaeus books and an influence in the Geekhood series, this is all about the tenuous relationship between a young sorcerer and general git, Nathaniel, and his arrogant, self-centred djinni, Bartimaeus.

The characters are so brilliantly written that you do find yourself cursing their more stupid decisions – of which there are many. And the way the author uses footnotes is hilarious. It’s got gargoyles, demons, djinni, deceit and double-dealing, set in an alternate version of Britain.

What’ve I missed? Any books for geeks that really ought to be on this list? Let me know!

 

Also a quick reminder that it’s Geek Week over on YouTube so I did a special post for the Stripes blog and even better is there’s a giveaway!  Stripes are giving away both the Geekhood books SIGNED (by me obviously) and all you have to do is tweet them a photo of yourself doing something geeky with the hashtag #Geekhood .

#GeekWeek Competition Time!

You know me; any chance for some silliness.

So, here’s the deal: to celebrate YouTube’s Geek Week, those lovely folk at Stripes Books are having a Geekhood Competition!

How Do You Enter?

It’s so simple, it’s brilliant! All you do is take a photo of yourself and Tweet it at me or Stripes or both of us, with the hashtags #GeekWeek and #Geekhood. But, here’s the catch: these can’t be any old photos of you – they’ve got to be Geeky ones! I don’t care if it’s you dressed up as a Power Ranger on your 6th birthday or the moment you got Andy Serkis’ autograph – the Geekier, the better!

The Prize?

*drum roll* Not one….but both current Geekhood books…wait for it…SIGNED BY ME! The guy who wrote them; that chap.

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Setting the Bar

It doesn’t seem fair that you guys get all the fun, so I thought I’d chuck a couple of photos of my own into the mix, just to get you thinking…

Me, dressed as a hobbit, with Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper!

Me, dressed as a hobbit, with Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me, dressed as a Wizard, painting an Ork Stompa, while Lego Superman and batman battle it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Me, at a LARP, dressed as…I’m not sure, to be honest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good luck, you lovely people!!!

The Twelfth Doctor

Yes, I’m excited. Even as a fan of the beautiful giraffe, Matt Smith, I’m excited. Matt Smith was brilliant. He embodied young and old at the same time and managed that breakneck speed that seems to be the hallmark of New Who. Us Classic Whovians had the luxury of four-part episodes, each with their own appointed cliff-hanger. But, more than that, we got to spend more time with the Doctor. How’s having an older chap in the role going to change things?

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A Doctor Who needs Assistants

The simple answer is we’ll have to wait and see – but there are some things to think about. Peter Capaldi is the oldest actor to take the role since its originator, William Hartnell. Hartnell –  being a classic character actor – played the role a bit older than  his actual age, so we were faced with a cranky, irascible and – perhaps most importantly – physically weaker character than his subsequent incarnations. What did this do? It gave the assistants their chance to shine.

The current trend for assistants is for them to be some unfathomable part of a celestial puzzle; Clara was the Impossible Girl, Amy had that Crack in Time thing going on and even Rose had a whiff of the Bad Wolf about her. But – back in the old days, assistants were just ordinary folk; people who discovered their strengths although their weaknesses were highlighted through travelling with an intergalactic alien. These were the sorts of role you could play in the playground; if you didn’t get to be the Doctor, Harry or Sarah were a good second best – because you could relate to them.

Will They? Should They?

I’m not doubting Capaldi’s fitness, but it’d be nice to see a return to the Doctor’s brisk walk, rather than the manic run. If he’s anything like the Classic Doctors, then the 12th Doctor should be Brain Central; he’s the guy who thinks the Big Thoughts and his assistants can get to do the running around. It’s more of a team effort.

It also ought to put the mockers on that ‘Will they/won’t they’ thing. No; they won’t. Not yet, anyway. The Doctor is as sexless as much as he is ageless; it’s not about nookie. The whole ‘Lonely Angel’ stuff never bothered any of the other Doctors; they just got on with their inter-dimensional travelling and never batted an eyelid at their assistants. I, personally, would like to see a return to this; the Doctor is the eccentric voice of wisdom and, while it’s nice to pick up a bit on his needs and wants as an alien entity – that’s just what he is: an alien entity. I’m kind if hoping that the romantic aspect disappears and we’re left with a mysterious, enigmatic creature that transcends our human template.

Thinking Gallifreyan

Also, I quite fancy a Doctor who thinks a bit more. Both Smith’s and Tennant’s Doctors were wonderfully impulsive, but I can’t help but yearn for Baker’s sonorous pondering or Troughton’s drawn-out lightbulb moments. These were the times you bit your nails for; was he going to work it out or not? New Who is a bit quick-fix for my liking and the Doctor’s short-cut solutions and the numerous abilities of the sonic screwdriver have more than a whiff of the deus ex machine about them. Let’s have some head-scratching going on.

Capaldi. His track-record is superb; there’s no doubting he’s ‘got the chops’ as those pesky rock ‘n’ rollers like to say. And he looks a bit alien. And a bit ‘dark’. I like the look of him and I predict good things.

It’s time to take the Doctor home. Whenever that might be.

I wrote about my worst to best Doctors Who not long ago but here’s a link in case you fancy another look.  I wonder where Capaldi will fit into that list, when his time’s done?