Words we love to hear #94

Just heard those magic words from a producer: ‘So, anyone optioned the film rights for your book yet?’

Nicely film strip

Of course they haven’t read it yet! But in the same week that you get the contract for writing a feature pilot for a TV series that you helped to create, well it’s not bad news!

Continue reading Words we love to hear #94

World Building Gone Mad?

I love a good bit of world building. I not only want to smell the coffee, I want to know which estate the beans came from and through what small cat-like creature they may have passed through. This is one of the reasons that I was excited by the title credits to the recent TV adaptation of the ‘Shannara Chronicles’. There was a sort of ‘evolutionary’ family tree of how the races, elves, gnomes, dwarfs etc, developed in Brooks’s post-holocaust world. Top world building, even if it was difficult to imagine how exactly all this went on in such a short time period, or why elves were just seemed to be people with pointy ears. I’m sticking with ‘Shannara’ though and see how it err… evolves.

Shanara opening credits

I did wonder if I might have gone a bit far when I delved into the ‘The Paleoanthropological Relationships That Exist in the Hominini Lines of Fairyland’. This examined the ancestry of the particular races that people my own world of Widergard. Not only that but it equates dwarfs, elves, ogres etc with what we know of our own past ‘humans’. Too much world building though I wondered?

Judging by the response though, apparently not. Readers do love an obscene amount of detail about the places they invest their leisure time reading into – including evolutionary family trees.

lord of rings family tree

So if you want to know what really happened to the Australopithecines and Homo habilis go have a look at my longer article on the fab SF Signal.

Continue reading World Building Gone Mad?

My Funniest Joke Ever (as a scientist)

Comedy writers do actually get asked to say something funny at parties (not actually to write something funny, but say something funny – which isn’t that fair; I mean a racquet manufacturer isn’t expected to win Wimbledon!

Or at least I do; get asked to say funny stuff – not to win Wimbledon that is.

‘Come on what’s the best joke you’ve ever written?’

“Sorry, don’t really write jokes.”


‘I prefer commenting on the human condition obliquely using humour.’

‘Yeah, right. Can I hit you?’

Strangely, when I was a full-time scientist, I never got asked what the best science I ever did was. That would have been easy: coming up with the constitutive-like secretory pathway for the release from the human heart of Atrial Natriuretic Peptide.

funny cartoon scientist

It’s a belter, eh?

Part of the problem with finally admitting to what I consider to be my funniest joke ever, was that it was actually said in a laboratory! It’s a science gag!

It was while I was doing some work on Marfan Syndrome. This is an inherited  genetic condition affecting connective tissue and sufferers are typically very tall with long fingers. Abraham Lincoln may have had the condition, as might Mary Queen of Scots and Sergei Rachmaninoff (as a pianist he had a tremendous ‘span’).

The compromised connective tissue protein is called Fibrillin and it first was isolated from a medium of human fibroblast cells, following electrophoresis after di-sulpide band reduction, which produced a nice distinct single band of 350 KD (not small). Because connective tissue occurs throughout the body there are many distressing and life- threatening problems associated with Marfan Syndrome including degeneration of the heart valves. I was assisting on a project investigating the ultrastructure of Fibrillin in Marfan patients and control subjects. Specifically I was training up two young technicians to ‘rotary shadow’ isolated ‘patient’ fibrillin. This technique involves making a high resolution heavy-metal ‘replica’ of rapidly frozen and freeze-dried macromolecule in a vacuum evaporator. It is not the very, very most demanding of electron microscopical techniques, but there is plenty or room for error.

It was not going well.

Or rather, we were obtaining images from the control fibrillin – which are particularly lovely with a bead-on-string arrangement of fibrillin along the long microfibril. However we were not having any joy with samples from the Marfan patients, which obviously were in rather shorter supply. We wanted some action! We all, after all, wanted to do out bit to help combat this rotten inherited disease!

Was it an isolation problem actually associated with the putative problem with the fibrillin microfibril itself? We didn’t know.

Every other day a new isolated sample would be rotary shadowed, and the delicate replicas teased up on a grid to be put in the electron microscope; the three of us huddling around in the dark looking at the screen for some sign of the elusive molecule.

And every other day disappointment.

And then one day it all came together – as it can do in science for no particular reason. There on the screen was a sample of the ‘Marfan’ fibrillin. The normally intact microfibril was ragged, flayed almost; the beads disrupted.


‘Look at the state of that,’ I said to the two young technicians: ‘it’s the parents I blame.’

All right then, please yourselves.

Continue reading My Funniest Joke Ever (as a scientist)

777 and similar challanges

I was tagged by Christi J. Whitney in the 777 challenge (Do check out her Romany Outcast series btw – really enjoyed #1) So here are the 7 lines after line 7 from page 7 of the latest Nicely Strongoak book – which I finished 7 months ago! (Publishing does not move quickly sometimes) . I’d love to give you the title, but these things can be subject to change – for shorthand it’s called KELS though. So make of that what you will!
KELS, eh?
KELS, eh?
“I drove down a long, tree-lined avenue – there is no other sort in Tall Trees – and pulled up on a gravel forecourt, leaving my wagon with a flunky. At least I’m guessing he was a flunky – all elves look like they just climbed out of the same enchanted pool of unicorn widdle to me. He took my Dragonette ’57 somewhere more discreet, in case even a certified classic steam wagon lowered the tone of the neighbourhood, and I took the elevator up the tree. Way up the tree.
I found a steward waiting for me in the entrance hall. ‘Is Master Dwarf the detective?’ he asked. Was this guy tugging my topknot? Did he maybe think I was selling cleaners door-to-door in Elfland?”
Well, it’s 7 lines in Word anyway!

Continue reading 777 and similar challanges

In Praise of Praise

Blowing your own trumpet is hard. It is so much easier to praise other people, especially when you really like what they are doing. It’s been really nice lately to be able to do just that for some great fellow Harper Voyager writers.

Solo trumpet is even harder if you’re British – honestly, we’re really bad at this sort of thing. Remember we are the people who apologise to the furniture when we bump into it! And when we do give the one-person woodwind a go, we’re usually pretty hopeless and come over as either self-serving egomaniacs or chronic apologists (I know I do.) So, with that in mind, I would just like to mention a few nice things another people have said recently about ‘A DEAD ELF’.

No wonder Detective Strongoak looks so happy! (Not a kid's book!)
No wonder Detective Strongoak looks so happy! (Not a kid’s book!)

These are from ***** reviews on Amazon.com (which constitute 48% of all reviews btw) and I should just point out that I don’t have any family in the USA. (And none of these people write for Harper Voyager either).

BRILLIANT mix of “Lord of the Rings” and Sam Spade!
By J. Komon

I read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy as well as mysteries, and write a fair amount of fanfic. It isn’t easy to build an AU – everything from the slang to character names to social structure to alien races. You try to keep things somewhat recognizable, and yet just strange enough so the reader can get immersed into a strange new world. Terry Newman does a terrific job: a good mystery, intriguing characters, delightfully snarky humor, and a cynical tough dwarf who does the best Humphrey Bogart tough-guy imitation ever!

I loved, loved this story, and look forward to future adventures of Det. Strongoak!

Nicely done
By Connie Standridgeon
I want more of Strongoak. This book was a great read couldn’t put it down. Loved the characters and loved the created world.

Pratchett-like world building (not flat world but fun!)
By Hans Olafon
This was a fun read. The guy is great with words–a real story-teller. He could probably built worlds–like Pratchett’s Disc World (a relief from reading so many books on Amazon that were obviously self-published because a real publisher would not publish them).

What a fun ride. I loved it
by K. Winkelmanon
Dwarf Detective Nicely Strongoak is one of the most delightful characters I’ve come across this year. The book was well written, witty as all heck and reminded me of Douglas Adams’ (yes, of Hitchhiker’s Guide fame) insanely fun detective novels – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. While Terry Newman’s yarn doesn’t go quite off the rails as Douglas Adams did, the result is a an engaging story full of twists and turns set in an aging Citadel mountain city laboring under the strain of blending mixed races (elves, dwarves, goblins, men, gnomes, and more), politics and power struggles. It includes classic noir mysteries, dames in distress, betrayals and misdirection placed in fantastical settings overlaid with a steampunk feel. The cars and other forms transportation appear to be steam driven and quite whimsical. The characters were fairly well developed, especially the main ones. I was tickled by the idea of surf elves with enchanted boards, and the crazy way they dealt with banished royalty. The story was entertaining and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. Detective Strongoak has some great comeback lines and I had a few laugh out loud moments amid the frequent grins and chuckles. I was not disappointed by this book… except that the novel wrapped things up and ended when I would have been thrilled to have it go on and introduce a new wild adventure and mystery to solve for the incredible Detective Strongoak. More please! And soon!

Continue reading In Praise of Praise

For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know

Theatre Advice 3The full advice, before you start writing for theatre:

  • Sadly directors are not there to get your ‘vision’ on stage in an unadulterated form – many have thoughts of their own. Live with it.
  • Actors are not wet-props. Some have thoughts and feelings like regular people do.
  • You will rarely get the credit, but some directors will always try to give you the blame (even if they rewrite your script).
  • Putting on a play is very much a group activity, but you’re not really in the group (most of the time).
  • Part of your job is to present your work in a properly formatted fashion with clear and precise stage directions. Your genius is more recognisable that way.
  • Do not expect to live on what you earn as a theatre writer, get yourself a proper job too.
  • It’s all right to say ‘I’ve got a new play on’, just not in the presence of anybody else involved in the production.
  • Writers are not meant to marry actors. It’s a matter/antimatter thing.
  • If you want to work with professionals, act like a professional – sorry, be a professional; never act at all. That’s not your job.
  • Theatre writers are not restricted to just writing plot and dialogue. If you really, really believe it is truly important that somebody should enter STAGE LEFT say so, but don’t be an arse about it.
  • You are not writing a radio play – think visually.
  • You are not writing a film script either – don’t think that visually.
  • If you require lavish sets marry well.
  • Never tell anybody with a manual occupation, or working in public services, how hard your job is.
  • Awards don’t matter until you get one.
  • Never trust anybody who says you can make money at the Edinburgh Fringe, unless they sell fast food.
  • Most critics are only human.
  • The show does not have to go on, get a sense of perspective – other people have lives too.
  • Producer is a job too.
  • Never be the last one to stop clapping at your own show. Continue reading For anybody considering writing for theatre: Things Theatre Writers Should Know

Did I blink and miss them?

One thing I didn’t quite get about ‘The Shanara Chronicles’ – as clearly stated in the opening credits:

Shanara opening creditsA distinct lack of ‘Dwarf’ . That’s the sort of thing that annoys a certain dwarf Master Detective. Are the elves to blame?

Continue reading Did I blink and miss them?

Excellent Empire Magazine June ‘Ghostbuster’s’ Cover

Yes, the subscription cover offers loads of uses for blatant self-publicity! Such as:

Slimer on Nicely

Well, you have to do it, don’t you?

Continue reading Excellent Empire Magazine June ‘Ghostbuster’s’ Cover