Monday, 27 July 2015

Gig Review - Manic Street Preachers play The Holy Bible in Edinburgh

So, my wife and I got tickets to see Welsh rock act Manic Street Preachers on the second leg of their UK tour to promote the 20th anniversary of their seminal album The Holy Bible. What a gig!

The Holy Bible is a raw, bruising, nihilistic, yet somehow completely life-affirming work and to see it played live was an incredible experience. You can find out more details about the album on its Wikipedia page or if you're pushed for time, I also wrote a short piece about it for the 2012 A-Z Challenge.

The Manics in 1994 (l-r): Sean Moore, Nicky Wire,
James Dean Bradfield, Richey Edwards
The gig, on 30th May in Edinburgh's plush Usher Hall, was something special indeed. The band had recreated some of the look of the original 1994 tour for the album, including military-type outfits and camouflage netting on stage. This is a confrontational album which attacks many political and societal targets. The atmosphere was intense and the Manics proved that despite mellowing somewhat in the years since the album (and the 1995 disappearance of troubled rhythm guitarist and principal lyricist for the Holy Bible, Richey Edwards), they can still launch a blistering live assault when the occasion demands. The hardcore faithful were singing along with every word and singer and guitarist James Dean Bradfield was happy to let them take over on lead vocals when he had to take a breath.

When I heard about this tour, I wasn't sure if the band could pull off such a feat as performing this album with the energy it demanded but I needn't have worried. The crowd were in the palm of the band's hand - we had a great view of both from our position up in the gallery - and despite the frenetic pace of most of the hour's set, with crowdsurfers aplenty, there were a couple of occasions when the audience stood completely still and you could have heard a pin drop. These were during the gut wrenching outro to "4st 7lb", a song told from the perspective of a teenage anorexic hovering on the verge of death, when the song completely slows down and a repeating chord structure accompanies lines of awful acceptance such as "Such beautiful dignity in self-abuse"; and again during the entire harrowing six minutes of "The Intense Humming of Evil", which tackles the horrors of the Holocaust - and those who would deny it - head on. This song had not been played since 1994, and on record it has a uniquely unsettling power which was only amplified live. In one of the greatest sequencing tricks, we were then plucked from the lowest point and thrown back into the triumphant melee of "PCP", a fiery punk anthem which closes the album by questioning political correctness and the control of our lives by governments.

After a ten-minute break, the band came back on to run through a spirited hits set featuring some of their most popular songs such as "Motorcycle Emptiness", "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next", "You Stole the Sun From My Heart", and "You Love Us". This was where they got to loosen up after the exertion of playing the Holy Bible and they pulled off some of their trademark stage moves including James's spins and bassist Nicky's scissor kicks. Despite the fairly predictable nature of the set, they still pulled out a couple of surprises, including the first ever live showing of the rifftastic "Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll", which closed their 1992 debut album Generation Terrorists. The night finished on a stirring rendition of "A Design For Life", the working-class anthem which relaunched them following the loss of their childhood friend, Richey.

I didn't get any pictures or video from the night, so here's a photo of the band in their 1994 uniforms, and below, the video for "Faster", the blistering lead single from The Holy Bible.

Have you been to any good concerts recently?

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Change of Mind Giveaway Winners, and what I've been up to

Well, hello. I didn't mean to go AWOL for quite so long. I'll get to my reasons in just a minute, but first things first, it's high time to announce the winners of my blog tour giveaway. Roll those drums...

The winners are:

Vanessa Morgan who wins an e-copy of A Change of Mind and Other Stories

T.B. Markinson who wins a £10 Amazon gift card

Congrats, guys! I'll be in touch shortly about how to redeem your prizes.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first blog tour and felt quite humbled by everyone's thoughts and comments. In addition to my lovely tour hosts, my book has also seen features on Mina Burrows' and Medeia Sharif's blogs and I'm very grateful to have had some great reviews.

The big news, we've moved house... which is huge news, as we had never been settled at our previous address where we had been for 1.5 years. This feels so much more relaxed and peaceful. Now, with the move out of the way, I will be buckling down and getting on with Part 3 of my trilogy, which was my big plan for this year. It's July, so um... slightly overdue, but I'm still hopeful of getting a first draft done before the year is out. I'm also aiming for more regular blog posts and to get back to Write 1 Sub 1.

Hope everyone's having a good summer! Ours is wet, but we're enjoying whatever splashes of sunshine come our way.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A Change of Mind and Other Stories Blog Tour - Day 11

Hope everyone's having a good Saturday! It's the final day of my tour and I'm spending it at Jean Davis' Discarded Darlings blog where I'm going back to the beginning with the opening of A Change of Mind.

I've had a blast the last couple of weeks and just want to extend a big thank you to all who have generously hosted me as well as left supportive messages, downloaded the book or added it to read. I've been blown away by the response!

Don't forget it's the last day to enter my giveaway to win a £10 Amazon card or copy of my book - you can do so over at Jean's.

I'll be packing up to move over the next three or four weeks, but I still intend to be around as much as I can.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, 5 June 2015

A Change of Mind and Other Stories Blog Tour - Day 10

Nearly the weekend! It's the penultimate day of the tour for my newly released spec fic collection and today I'm visiting Annalisa Crawford with an original short story - one which is very important for me personally. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A Change of Mind and Other Stories Blog Tour - Day 9

Onto Day 9 of the blog tour for my spec fic collection and I'm visiting my great friend and awesome CP Kyra Lennon for a girly chat. Yes, that's right - a girly chat. You'll need to click over to find out more!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Change of Mind and Other Stories Blog Tour Day 8 and IWSG

Happy Hump Day - it is Day 8 of my blog tour for my spec fic collection and today I'm over at The Girdle of Melian with Deniz Bevan, where I'm sharing a flash piece depicting an episode from my MC Reuben's childhood. There's also an excerpt from the novella at Cherie Reich's blog. Hope you can make it!

It is also the first Wednesday of the month and that means it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group. The group was founded by erstwhile Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh as a means for writers to reach out to others who are going through various tribulations of the writing life, as well as a safe place to talk about our own insecurities. Check out the other participants here. I'm not actually feeling too insecure, I've been having a great time and lots of encouraging messages on my blog tour, and I thank you one and all. 

I suppose the only thing that has been worrying me is I have not worked on any novels since NaNo last November. I have accomplished lots of smaller tasks (A-Z flash pieces, blog tour entries, submissions for Write 1 Sub 1). These are all well and good and every bit of writing keeps me ticking over. But I've fallen out of any sort of regular routine and can only seem to perform bite-sized writing jobs, done where I can fit them in. I've got the last part of my trilogy to write that I'd like to complete before the end of the year, but I just can't seem to knuckle down and do it.

Maybe it's the fact this book feels like more pressure than normal because it must wrap up a large story arc as well as present a great story in its own right. It's not the same as starting with a completely blank page, which perversely sounds more attractive right now. Don't get me wrong, I love the characters in my series to bits and want to see the best outcome for all the right people. But that's part of it as well. I don't want to let them down, so I'm holding off on addressing the issue.

Maybe it's my old stumbling block - which I have touched upon in one of my tour posts - that I'm more suited to writing short stories than novels. Still can't seem to get past this, and although I've already written two books for this series, I only feel like handling shorter pieces right now. On the other hand, I've just released a novella which has already had positive feedback. So that's kind of halfway there, right?

Just need to do it. I will motivate myself. We're also packing to move at the moment, which always throws me off, but that will be all done in a month. I also want to get back to submitting to Write 1 Sub 1 alongside my WIP, so I'll need to maintain a balance.

What about you? Do you feel you naturally gravitate towards a certain length of writing, and do you sometimes find it difficult operating outside that comfort zone?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

A Change of Mind Blog Tour - Day 7

Another day on my blog tour for my recently released spec fic collection, A Change of Mind and Other Stories. Today I'm visiting none other than the Lord of the Cosmic Laire, David Powers King, where there is a showdown between Guy Borderman, the boorish nemesis of my hero Reuben, and long-suffering office boss Spinton. It's tense!