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9 January 2019

A Happy New Year to you all!

It's hard to believe it's been almost six months since I updated the site but hey-ho that's what happens when you're a writer; you tend to want to spend your time writing things that you want to get finished and out there, and not futter about trying to make me sitting at a keyboard typing for hours on end try to sound sexy and exciting.

So a new year is a time for reflection. A time to assess what I stroked off my to-do list last year and what I'm planning to get done this year. Last year I did pretty well, getting my children's book, The Exploration Station, released and making a sizable dent in my next adult novel. I was hoping to get a first draft done by the end of the year, but that was just dreaming. The BBC Writersroom opportunity came along and I had to write something new for it as well, which meant putting the novel on hold for a while. I try to throw something at every new opportunity that comes along, which is why something as huge as a book gets interrupted a lot during its writing. However, now the decks are clear again (for the time being) I can devote myself to getting my novel finished. When it's done I plan to write the next part of The Exploration Station (and maybe the third part, too, if I'm in the zone) before going back to my novel to do the second draft. This cooling off period is essential as any writer will tell you - we notice what needs fixed a lot more easily if we don't look at it for a few weeks after it's done. Then begins the old slog of trying to get an agent or publisher to read it. This is becoming increasingly difficult these days, but this time around, to quote Baldrick: I have a cunning plan. Whether it works any better than any of Baldrick's plans, we'll just have to wait and see.

My album was also released last year! Songs About Girls got what they call in the biz a 'soft' release, which basically means it was released without any publicity or advertising or promotion. This is mainly due to me having no money to do any of those things. I still plan on making at least three music videos for various tracks, and I'm even toying with the idea of playing live again after all these years to try to get word out about it. The videos haven't happened mainly because I couldn't find a good location to shoot in. I changed my video concept at least three times, hoping someone would have a suitable location I could shoot it, but I came up empty each time. Looks like I'll have to think of a fourth concept and see if I can get something shot. The videos are really the lynchpin of my marketing idea for the album so I need to get something done soon. I'm hoping to start album#2 this summer so it would be nice if SAG started some momentum. Thanks to everyone who has downloaded or streamed it. I can look at the reports online and was quite amazed to see where its getting played. Not only in the UK and Ireland, but also the US, Canada, Germany, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands, Australia and Italy! So thanks to everyone who has the album on their playlist or downloaded. As Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr. says in The Commitments, 'I'll bet you U2 are shitting themselves.'

So I think that's the main plan for this year - more of the same. Keep throwing stuff at every writing opportunity that comes along until something sticks. Something I've learned over the last year is that there's a lot of reasons why writing doesn't get picked up, especially for TV. When writers get a rejection they usually beat themselves up that they just weren't good enough, and while that maybe true some of the time, some of the time it isn't. It's all subjective in the end, so getting a writer and commissioner who both think the same way together has about the same odds as two bullets on a battlefield hitting each other head-on. So what can we do but keep in firing.

Hopefully this year my film-making will get back on track again, too, and I may also meet, woo and marry the woman of my dreams if I have time. Now, since everyone makes lists at this time of the year, here's one from me.

Top 3 TV/ Movie things to look forward to in 2019:

1) AVENGERS: ENDGAME. With one of the biggest jaw-dropping endings EVER, we're all on tenterhooks to see how this is all going to play out. Marvel have rarely (if ever) dropped the ball, so I think we're in safe hands as we sit back and enjoy the end of an era.

2) GAME OF THRONES CONCLUDES: I haven't read the books - not that they're sticking to them anyway - so I have no idea where it's all going, but I think there's one thing we can be sure of - it's going to be EPIC.

3) STAR WARS EPISODE IX. Considering my ever-growing hatred for The Last Jedi, a film so badly written and conceived it just baffles me how Disney/ Lucasfilm signed off on that mess, my hopes are high for JJ's return to the directing chair. He's got a lot of work to do bringing the saga back to where it should be after Rian Johnson basically disregarded everything Abrams and Kasdan set up in The Force Awakens, but my hopes are high that JJ can pull it off, and the rumour that George Lucas has been consulted on it soothes my shattered nerves even more. The Last Jedi did so little to actually move the story forwards that my hope is one day all copies will be shot into the sun and it's very existence will fade into rumour, and as we watch EpVII and then EpIX we won't even need it. That's your challenge, JJ.

...and the top thing to look forward to for the good of all humankind...

TRUMP'S REMOVAL FROM OFFICE. Fingers crossed he goes to jail as well - wouldn't that be poetic justice. I think the walls are closing in on him and I don't think he'll last the year. I was even going to put a bet on this happening but the bookies are only giving 2/1 odds, so I guess they think it's a foregone conclusion as well. I don't think his ego will allow him to be impeached. More likely he'll 'resign' with some BS excuse as part of a plea deal to stay out of prison. Whatever it takes to get that imbecile out of office is fine with me.

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27 August 2018

BIG WEEK! I've got a couple of things happening this week. The first is a TV appearance on BBC2, believe it or not!

Back in June I entered a funny short story about going on a date with Crohn's Disease in the BBC's Ouch! event and it was selected as one of six to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, so a couple of weeks ago the BBC flew me over to Scotland to do it. Now I knew the audio was being recorded for transmission on Radio 5live and there was some talk of it being on the BBC website too, but I had no idea it was going to be on BBC2. The scale of this thing was massive; there were 300-400 people in the audience and I was onstage, alone. Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide. So it was a bit nerve-wracking, especially as they didn't want us reading off a page or autocue. So I basically had to memorize a six-page short story for the show. I'm sure I forgot bits of it and ad-libbed others, but I got to the end somehow and you'll be able to see it this Friday, 31st August at 11.35pm on BBC2. Since it all went by in a blur, I'm quite eager to see how it turned out myself. So set your planner, program your VCR, or just put a big circle around it in your TV guide. If you missed it, it's available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 3 months and I'm sure it'll pop up on YouTube at some point too.

So what news could possibly top that? Well, how about my album being released?

Yes, after too many years to count in the making, I'm finally throwing this out into the world. It's called Songs About Girls and, as you might gather from the title, it's a bunch of songs about girls I have known over the years. I've been working on this off-and-on for years now. Recording at home is a double-edged sword; on the one hand it's not costing any money to do as many takes as you want, but the flipside of that is you could end up tinkering forever. So at some point you have to draw a line and say stop. After I got to that stage, Michael McCluskey at SUBZERO Studios in Coleraine did my mixing and mastering (and I tortured him with final tweaks for weeks afterwards) and now I have an album I'm actually happy with.

I was hoping to have a video ready for the first single when I released this album, but weather and scheduling has thrown a massive spanner into that plan. I'm still going to do the videos as soon as I can. I'm planning three in all. I've always wanted to make some music videos - now I have the chance.

So if Songs About Girls isn't already up on your preferred online platform for streaming and/ or downloading, it should pop up soon; most platforms take 2-3 days to list new music, but some can take a couple of weeks. I'm not sure if it's worth getting physical CDs made up or not. Does anyone - except me - still listen to CDs? Contact me if you'd like one and if there's enough interest I'll get some made up.

Album#2 is already written so let's hope it doesn't take another couple of decades to get it finished.

That's it for this time. Let me know what you think of my album when you hear it, and maybe even write a review somewhere if you like it enough. Later.

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08 May 2018

Who was that dude who was forced to spend eternity pushing a rock up a mountain? Sisyfus, that was him. He had to push this rock up a mountain but as soon as he got close to the top it would roll down and he'd have to start all over again. I think Sisyfus should be the patron saint of writers, because his situation best symbolises what it's like to be a writer in this day and age. Just when you think you're getting somewhere it all rolls down again.

But enough of cryptic Greek metaphors and onto specifics....

Agents. They appear to be the ultimate Catch-22. When you need one to find you a deal, they don't want to know, but if you go out and find a deal yourself, they all want to be your agent. Of course they do! They'll be getting their commission for doing nothing! LOL! In the last year I've contacted 36 different agencies. I've written an email saying this is who I am, this is what I do, these are awards I've won and been short-listed for, would you like to see some of my work? The majority of those 36 didn't answer. A few gave me an automated 'Go Away' email. One even said her assistant would be in touch. Assistant never got in touch. Chased it up a couple of weeks later and assistant didn't answer. Tell me how you're supposed to fight that. It would be one thing if they read some of my stuff and said: No, we don't like it or It's not good enough, but they won't even read it!!!!Philip 'Norman Bates' Henry - Photo by Chris Roberts.

I'm currently about 20k into my next novel and, without getting too excited, I'm sure it's going to be a huge bestseller! That is, if anyone ever gets to read it. Same with all the movie scripts lazing around my hard-drive waiting to be picked up. How is anyone ever going to get to see these things if agents don't do their jobs? For better or worse, I AM a writer. It's what I do. It's why I keep tapping away at the keys even though no one wants to give me a chance. There's a great quote from Charles Bukowski that keeps me going....

"I'm 34 now. If I don't make it by the time I'm 60, I'm just going to give myself 10 more years."

So this leads me on to the next piece of bad news. My books - my babies - are going out of print in the next few weeks, so if you want a paper copy, please order now! The digital eBook versions of the books will still be available, but those are notoriously difficult to sign. The reason is money, of course. At present it's costing me more to keep these books in print each year than they are making. I spoke to a guy online recently who claims to have sold 100,000 books online, and he's also self-published. I asked him how and he said if you have 3,000-4,000 to spend on marketing, it's easy. Another Catch-22. You need to spend money to make money, but if you don't have any money to spend....

So what else is keeping me walking past open windows? Well, I know I've been saying this for ten years or more, but my album IS actually coming soon. I finally conceded defeat on the mixing and mastering. No matter how many YouTube videos I watched on the subject, I had neither the equipment nor the experience to get the album finished properly and 'radio ready'. So someone else is going to do it. I think I'm going to make a video for the first single and then release it all at the same time, so watch this space.

Apart from my upcoming music video, there are, as always, some film projects in the pipeline that I'm either waiting to hear about or waiting until I scrape up enough cash to buy a few props. It's been a slow year for the film-making, mostly because of the weather. Hopefully now things have heated up a bit, that will change or we're going to have very little to show at our annual showcase in October.

Books, films, music - I think that's everything. I shall sigh off - wow, how's that for a Freudian slip! - I'll actually SIGN off for now. If any of you know any agents, force them to contact me, by fair means or foul. If you need an alibi for some sort of kidnapping or blackmail scenario, I'll cover you.

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10 January 2018

Happy New Year. It's still early in the year so not much has happened... yet.

I had a bit of a horrible Christmas with a throat infection that felt like I was swallowing glass every time I ate or drank, and as soon as that cleared up I got a whopper of a toothache, which turned out to be a double abscess and has got me on more pills - I'm starting to sound like a maraca when I walk.

So all these mouth problems have halted the vocals from getting finished on my album. I did scratch vocals on all the tracks and thought I was pretty close to being done, but when I wrote them out to a CD and listened to it a few times, I began to hear more and more things that needed redone or could be done better. So hopefully when this tooth problem gets sorted I'll be able to get the rest of the vocals redone to my liking.

Noirland is finally available to watch on Amazon Video. I have no idea how smart TVs and all those streaming things work, but apparently you will be able to watch it on all sorts of devices and it will adjust the quality automatically to suit what you're watching on. With any luck, this will take our wee local film to a much bigger, international audience.

The first few illustrations for The Exploration Station are looking fantastic. I'm hoping this book should be out in the spring. I'm excited to be writing for an entirely different readership. It'll be interesting to see how the book does.

I've got a few short film ideas loitering around my hard drive and I'll probably make one or more of them at some point, but it's too damn cold to even think about going on location at the moment. The NCFC horror anthology movie is starting to take shape, but it probably won't start shooting for a few months and I'm not sure how involved I'll be with it when it does.

I have plenty of stuff to keep me going in the meantime.

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29 November 2017

Hello and welcome back. It has been a few months since I last checked in and that's because I was looking for some time to do a bit of a redesign on the website. So here it is! It's now more streamlined; instead of loads of different pages that I have to painstakingly update every time I add a new book, we just have a single page for each of my endeavours. This will make it much easier to navigate for you, and much quicker to update for me.

So, what have I been up to all this time...

Not much has got done this year as far as novel-writing goes. I have finished my children's book The Exploration Station and will be releasing that as soon as the illustrations are done. I was hoping to have it out by Christmas, but that's not looking likely now. The book stars my nephews and niece - Henry, Max and Bonnie - as three children who go to stay with their uncle (???) and accidentally find a porthole to another world in his house and then have to try to figure out a way to get home. It was great fun to write and I've just started working on the sequel as my NaNoWriMo project - about 85% of the first book was written for last year's project. Hopefully it'll be a trilogy.

 

I've made two short films this year; Nanny-Cam and Deadspot. We had a screening for all the films made by the North Coast Film Collective in the past twelve months at Portrush Playhouse (which is also our new meeting place) last month and it all went down a storm. There was every kind of kind of genre and style on display and the audience seemed to enjoy it all. Only twelve months until we do it all again, so we're already hard at work on fresh ideas. If you want to get involved, just join the Facebook group and come along to the next meeting.

 

The album is still a work in progress, but I have at least started the vocals now. I have one song pretty much finished, but then along came a cold and took away my voice. I'm over it now, so it's just a matter of finding the time to get the rest of the vocals recorded before the next cold comes along. You would think that would be the end of it, wouldn't you? But no! I'm just beginning to wrap my head around what a mammoth task mixing and mastering is. I thought I would be able to watch a few YouTube videos and bingo! I'd be a qualified engineer and producer! Unfortunately it seems like it takes a lifetime to become good at it. As usual, I can't afford to pay anyone to do it, so it looks like I'm just going to have to do my best and see what happens. I've been trying to get this album recorded for over ten years so I want to get it finished and start working on album two (album three is also written), but I don't want it to come out sounding half-assed after all this time either, so I guess I'll have to find a middle ground I can live with.

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