2023 Writing Round-up

Wow, 2023 was a year, wasn’t it? I can’t pretend it was a great one for actual writing (well – more about that below) but it was hella eventful in other arenas. Factors distracting me from writing including (but were not limited to) the ever-growing Baby T (now a toddler – who knew that children grow?), completing my first year of full-time teaching (ah, so this is what they grow into) and drumming at various gigs. That said, writing books isn’t the only pie I’ve got my authory fingers in, and it’s been great to be part of the adventures of those who’ve made films, displayed paintings or written songs that relate to things that I’ve written. This is my 2023 writing round up and all the activities I’ve been part of.

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The Best Albums of 2020

What makes an author qualified to present you with the best albums of 2020? A horror author perhaps; most of the following are culled from horror’s aural equivalents of rock and heavy metal. I write to music a lot but also listen to music to fire my imagination. Also I play drums, which is kind of musical. Depends who you ask.

Here’s my picks for the best albums of 2020. I’ve bought and listened to a lot of music this year but these records stood out from the rest and will be favourites of mines for years to come. Let’s explore the best albums of 2020!

Forlesen – Hierophant Violent

Firstly, what a record cover. We all know that we definitely should judge a book by its cover, and the sleeve of Hierophant Violent sets a high bar for what’s inside. And what is inside? A mere two tracks, each around the 18 minute mark. Each is the masterpiece in dynamics that post-metal needs to be in order to work; in ebbs and flows, highs and lows. Waves of synths crash and implode and rocky guitars and Nightbridge even contains a short black metal blast section. Let Forlesen take you on a journey.

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All Write Now II: More Great Writing Music

Three years ago I wrote about the kind of music I like to stick on when I’m writing. A good bit of music can be inspirational and atmospheric, helping you to sink into a creative state of mind. And if you’re writing in public, it can also help to block out the sounds of wailing infants and tradesmen ordering lattes.

I still listen to the music I lauded in my last blog post but, in the three years since I wrote my first list, I’ve added a few more albums to my arsenal. It’s good to have a few options for writing music as I find that as you get too familiar with something, you start engaging with it more and waiting for your favourite bits. And when you’re engaging too much with the music, you aren’t engaging enough with your writing.

So here’s a few more ideas to help channel your thoughts and block out the family argument at the next door table. Read More

How to Talk to Musicians at Open Mic

I stopped by my favourite pub a few weeks ago for an after-work pint or two.  Halfway through a glass of Downland’s I noticed all the new arrivals turning up with guitars.  Some customers had ukuleles and one had a banjo.  Halfway through my third pint I had my first go on a cajon.  I loved it.  Now I want a cajon*.

I’ve been to a few open mic nights since, chipping in on a borrowed cajon and sometimes on full drum kit.  It’s good fun; you get to meet like-minded people and see some proper talent.  But there are some rules to stick to if you fancy giving open mic a go.  Here’s a useful guide on…

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Anatomy of a Drum Kit: A Tour of My Drums

In between writing stories and blog posts I like to drum.  It’s a smashing hobby; cathartic as well as creative.  I started when I was sixteen, but I’ve improved since my first off-beat battering of Smells Like Teen Spirit.  I bought my own drum set, a Mapex Tornado Rock Fusion, back in 2013 after finishing university. But it’s evolved and spread a bit since then, and received a DIY tattoo on the bass drum.  Today I pulled it out of its usual corner and gave the whole thing a polish and spruce up.  Let me show you around the anatomy of a drum kit…

The Novice

I actually learned the drums on my dad’s Arbiter Flats Lite set.  It’s a great set for a beginner since it’s so much smaller (and quieter) than a full kit, yet still acoustic.  I’ve replicated the setup on my Tornado here.

My Mapex Tornado modelling the setup I learned on

This is called a ‘two-up, one-down’ setup.  This means there’s two toms racked above the bass drum, and one floor tom off to the side.  Toms, or tom-toms, are the bouncy-sounding drums; the ones that Phil Collins (or that gorilla from the Cadbury’s advert) use for the big fill in In The Air Tonight.  Some drummers use a few as two toms (Ghost’s ghoul drummer had just one!) but fancier drummers can have loads.  The bigger the drum, the deeper the sound. So drumming on them from left to right produces the descending roll that is featured in loads of songs.

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