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The Bear King

Dark Age is out and on the shelves of your local bookstore.  I’m caught in that bizarre publishing time-trap of existing one year ahead of everybody else – I’m currently working my way towards the end of the The Bear King, the third and final volume in the Dark Age trilogy.

If you’ve enjoyed the adventures of Lucanus, this examination of the historical origins of the King Arthur myth, of Camelot and Excalibur and all the rest, and if you’re keen to see where it all goes (and likely not where you expect), this one is for you.

“Like a story, the important thing about life is how it is played out.  It does not matter where you stop.  Stop wherever you want to, but just attach a good ending.” ~ Seneca

 

Dark Age – Now On Sale

Dark Age, the new book from my pseudonym, James Wilde, is in shops now.  This is the sequel to Pendragon, which gained a lot of attention and a major award nomination.  Roman Britain, myth-making, legends, swords, conspiracies and battle.

“Not since Bernard Cornwell took on the Arthur myth has a writer provided such a new and innovative view of the Arthurian story…fast-paced, action-packed…a wonderful tale.”

Or from The Times:

“Has all the hallmarks of a traditional historical adventure story – there are battles, swords and the bantering of violent men – and these are all done with style. However, there is also intellectual heft in the story, with its themes of myth-making and the nature of power.”

It’s from Penguin Random House. Order it from your local bookshop, or check it out here.  You can find out more about Pendragon here.

Here’s what the publisher says:

Bridging the gap between ‘Game of Thrones’ and Bernard Cornwell comes the second chapter in James Wilde’s epic adventure of betrayal, battle and bloodshed . . .

It is AD 367, and Roman Britain has fallen to the vast barbarian horde which has invaded from the north. Towns burn, the land is ravaged and the few survivors flee. The army of Rome – once the most effective fighting force in the world – has been broken, its spirit lost and its remaining troops shattered.

Yet for all the darkness, there is hope. And it rests with one man. His name is Lucanus who they call the Wolf. He is a warrior, and he wears the ancient crown of the great war leader, Pendragon, and he wields a sword bestowed upon him by the druids. With a small band of trusted followers, Lucanus ventures south to Londinium where he hopes to bring together an army and make a defiant stand against the invader.

But within the walls of that great city there are others waiting on his arrival – hidden enemies who want more than anything to possess the great secret that has been entrusted to his care. To seize it would give them power beyond imagining. To protect it will require bravery and sacrifice beyond measure. And to lose it would mean the end of everything worth fighting for.

Before Camelot. Before Excalibur. Before all you know of King Arthur. Here is the beginning of that legend . . .

Netflix To Let Viewers Pick How Movies End

One of the things you quickly learn as a writer is that viewers and readers never really want what they think they want. They desire what they could never have predicted. That’s why you never listen to ‘fans’ when you’re putting something together for a general audience.

I love Netflix. They’re great disruptors, and they’re driving the modern age of TV and film viewing. Now they’re planning to let viewers choose endings to movies and TV episodes, like a choose-your-own-adventure game.

I think this is a misunderstanding of both human psychology, and how storytelling works.

I’ve had meetings where I’ve been briefed on many new ways of telling visual tales, from VR, to AR, to this. One thing’s for sure – everything is going to change.

But the principles remain the same.

TV Project Updates

Thought it was about time to let people know something (*nothing*) about the TV projects I have in the works. In the TV world, just about everything operates beneath the surface.  Contracts prevent anyone talking about a series until it has definitely been greenlit by a broadcaster, and, usually, the broadcaster has made the first announcement. Which is absolutely right.

So, as vague as I can get away with:

Project Spitfire is with a major producer, with a director and (well-known) star attached. Waiting for the nod to move on to the next stage, which is imminent.

Project Hurricane has a well-known executive producer and has a completed and locked down pilot script.  Waiting to get this under a broadcaster’s nose.

Project B52 is in the early stages of development with a well-known producer and is awaiting notes.

(Don’t read anything into the project titles.)

Meanwhile, I’m moving ahead rapidly on the next novel for Penguin Random House, following on from Dark Age, which will be published in a couple of weeks.

Check out an old post about how you need to juggle projects in multiple media if you want to make a go of being a writer in the current age: The 21st Century Writer.

Tolkien, Acid Fantasy And The University Of Oxford

Very pleased by the brilliant reception from academics and students to my lecture about fantasy at the University of Oxford.  Somehow I managed to pack in the influence of Tolkien (good and bad), Acid Fantasy, the important move towards diversity in both writers and story matter, gay Dumbledore, the abundance of medieval secondary world fantasy and why it’s not good for the wider genre, George R R Martin sobbing in his wine cellar, the writing process, why populist politicians must love Weird Tales heroes, and why fantasy is really about reality…while quoting Oscar Wilde, China Mieville, Alan Moore and an old song by The Jam.

Yes, it was a mad ride, but the learned audience was very gracious.

It was a hectic day, involving a dash up the M40 from London, and back immediately after the talk, so I could fit in work on the new James Wilde novel and some screenwriting business on a project that’s now in development.

A shame I couldn’t stay longer, because the programme for the three-day Here Be Dragons event was phenomenal.  It was organised by Dr Stuart Lee, who informed the audience that we first met in a BBC TV make-up room.

On the agenda were talks on Morgan Le Fay and Merlin, and Arthurian Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Shakespeare to the Gothic, H P Lovecraft, Susan Cooper, Ursula Le Guin, George R R Martin and Game of Thrones, Dianne Wynn Jones, Philip Pullman, J K Rowling and more.

Into The Wilds

The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which sometimes used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state.

We all need to return to that natural state from time to time – if not, too much sanity will drive us mad.  It’s particularly important for creative people.  This is how you tap into the unconscious where stories and art and music are borne.

It won’t happen naturally.  How you do it is down to you – I have many ways that work for me.  One is to make sure I get away into the wilds a few times a year.  Trek across wind-swept moors where there’s not a soul around for miles.  Sleep under the stars.  Dive into the ocean and let the swell carry you.  The Wild forces the front-brain to switch off.

And when you do, you start to see strands of myth all around you – like the installation above. And myth is the way the Wild communicates directly with the unconscious – the real – you.

I took this photo at the Eden Project (Motto: Transformation: it’s in our nature) on a recent journey through Cornwall, one of my favourite places.  If you want to see more of what I do in my life, make sure you follow me on Instagram.

The Future Of TV

When I’m not writing novels under my pseudonym James Wilde, most of my current work under my own name is screenwriting for TV, developing shows for both the UK and the US. I have several currently in different stages of development (more on these projects soon).

The nature of the industry is changing so fast you can almost feel the land moving under your feet.  Terrestrial broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, NBC, ABC – are in steep decline.  They’re fighting to get eyes on screens and talent to make their shows.  Streaming providers are winning.  Netflix, Prime, soon Disney and Apple, with a whole lot more in the pipeline.

It’s a great time to be a screenwriter.

Netflix has just taken over a massive new building on the lot of Sunset Bronson Studios on Sunset Boulevard.  If you want to get a sense of how they’re changing things up, this piece in Wired is a great read.

On January 7, 2018, Netflix had its biggest ever day of streaming, with users collectively watching 350 million hours of TV shows and movies. (Netflix puts this down in part to an increase in viewers around holiday periods.) It’s planning on spending $8bn on its video content in 2018; by comparison, Fox spent the same amount in 2017 on non-sports content.

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Here Be Dragons

Artist: Minjie Su

Later this year, I’ll be speaking at Here Be Dragons: The Oxford Fantasy Literature Summer School organised by the English Faculty at the University of Oxford.

My talk is all about writing fantasy, but if that doesn’t grab you, you can also hear about M R James, H P Lovecraft, C S Lewis, Tolkien, Arthurian fantasy, George R R Martin, J K Rowling, Diana Wynne-Jones and Philip Pullman. And much more across three full days.

It runs from September 11 – 13, and you can book a place here.