Abandon Summer Office!

One of the great things about this writing business is the chance to use the summer office. It’s wonderful with garden coming into full bloom to have this little hide-away.

back to the office

Sadly this year’s’ weather has been so pants there have not been many great summer office days. And now, when we finally have a decent day, what happens?

Inside the Summer office

I have to vacate the office, that is what! Yes, for the first time ever it is too hot for Dr Tel to be out there in the summer office. The jolly-old thermometer is hitting 90F and I can’t concentrate!

How cross am I?* Continue reading Abandon Summer Office!

The Elf with No Name

“I stopped a step or two from the top and weighed him up. The long straight blond locks were pulled back tight with a pin-stick slide-clip that flashed a sapphire or two as he turned his head to survey the night-time Citadel. A knotted plait hung over one shoulder. His two-button suit in midnight green was expertly cut in a style that did not impede movement. His hat was as cool as an ice-dragon’s undercarriage.

Elf with no name

Lean and nicely balanced and probably fast with it, this was one elf that would need careful watching.

Continue reading The Elf with No Name

Nicely’s Appeal Explained

You can’t beat a good Venn diagram can you? Still love a good Venn diagram – and it’s the perfect method for explaining the appeal of ‘Detective Strongoak’ to readers of fantasy, comedy and detective fiction. So here we go:

The Appeal Of Detective Nicely Strongoak to Different Fiction Readers.
The Appeal Of Detective Nicely Strongoak to Different Fiction Readers.

So there we are! Very informative, I’m sure you’ll agree and clearly illustrating the target audience! Just about everybody who likes a good book! Continue reading Nicely’s Appeal Explained

Graphic shorts

I love graphic novels. I always have, even when they were comics. My favourite? Probably still ‘V for Vendetta’ – and then too many to mention (I will sometime though). So of course I had to give it a try. This is what I came up with – perhaps more of an illustrated story? (It’s full of old British stuff – but hey, that’s the charm!)

Please enjoy: ‘A Widow’s Weeds.’ page1 widows graphicPage 3 widows graphicpage 3 widowspage 4 widows graphic

Continue reading Graphic shorts

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)