Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Invisible Animals/ Christmas, that's for sure

OK. Another huge gap between posts. Well, I've been busy. I've been writing TV shows and film scripts, and pitches for said TV and film scripts. Some of these have been with my writing partner, the director, Carl Tibbetts; some, my own "passion projects", as they say on American screen writing podcasts. These are all invisible animals; nevertheless, fully formed, breathing and vigorous entities that are out in the world doing their thing.

I've been talking with producers about films that I am planing to make. Chatting with Virtual Reality companies on how best to incorporate narrative into to a thrilling VR experience. And I've taught the odd class here and there. Most recently, I spoke to a group of digital marketing students about how to craft a story for a Dr Who app. Super fun and exciting stuff.

Next year, the plan is to write on here more frequently about the screen writing process. Shine a light on the life of a screen writer  and walk you through  the complicated shadows one must tread to keep going. Also, I'll hopefully be keeping you posted on new and exciting projects on the horizon.

But for now, as we approach  the shiny, baubled monolith of Christmas, a poem. A Christmas poem, I suppose you'd call it.

I always seem to come here and post a poem. Seems the best place for me to post one.

Merry Christmas everyone, and all being well, see you next year.

Christmas,that's for sure.

Christmas, that's for sure
For sure; it's the only thing.

For those little terrors it's a strange and mystical coming
Of gifts, seen then tossed.
The feeling is Christmas's bright, obvious light.

A H bomb on the horizon that flattens the world,
Cuts down the hills, the furrows that hide the dark
For a brief, explosive spark.
Then quickly into a blackness, and we can not find our way.

But for those terrors,
Each day is a new pasture to walk
Slippery rock to transverse
They know, that what they don't know, is enough.
That we can not stop thinking, that it can only be stopped.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Guts in the Gutter

Is there anybody there? Wow.Another long period since I've posted on here. The last few posts were about my book and me urging you to buy it, in a roundabout way. I wrote this poem in a short , angry, dizzying jag and wanted to share it, in all of it's scrappy rawness. Maybe it's finished, maybe it isn't...I'm not sure. Let's see.

Guts in the Gutter.

There are guts in the gutter
Glistening like spring morning grass.
And I walk past them in the same fashion
To get to my office, my home, my lover’s throne.

There are children on the streets and shores
White eyed. Washed out of all the good stuff.
My eyes are locked forward
To get to my office, my home, my lover's throne.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

It's the New Year.

So, 2013 turned out to be a brilliant and busy year. There were interviews with Aussie magazines and music blogs. I spoke to writing students at BCU and Halesowen College about writing and crafting your first novel. And I was lucky enough be asked to submit an extract from 27 and  write an article on one of my literary heroes, Denis Johnson. Not only that, but I had a story, "Sugar Crash"  published in an anthology "The Sea in Birmingham". It was to celebrate 30 years of Tindal Street Writing Group and the launch was held at The New Birmingham Library.  Incidentally, the first run has already sold out.

2014 looks as if it will be like last year, and then some. I shall be on 107.5 Switch Radio, 30th January, to talk about 27 and the other projects I’m currently involved in. I'll also be talking to several book groups that have had 27 as their book of the month.

Thanks for buying 27, and the great feedback that I've been getting via e-mail and at talks has been extremely gratifying. Please check out the 27 book site  for more  news, updates on 27 and new projects. See you soon.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Ryland and The Bird

Those of you who read this blog regularly ( when I get round to writing stuff on here...) know that before I dedicated my life to writing stories I poured all of my energies into writing and performing songs, have done most my life. I was a lead guitarist and songwriter in many bands , but most successfully, (hmm, one could argue other wise) with my band Adventure Club. We put out an album, a labour of love really,  called "Wilderness Music" back in 2007. One of the  many problems we had back then was that we could never keep a line up together,  it always ended up just the two of us, just me and the singer playing and performing the songs to our small but dedicated  following. Eventually it all got a bit too much and we ended up amicably, calling it a day.  As traumatic as some of those days were I met some life long friends and it has to be said, many  genuine crazies. I learnt a lot from that time, not just about music but about people and well, life.  So much so that I wrote my first novel "27", about  that world.

The process of writing "27" helped me not only understand the inner workings of "The Novel", but  it also  somehow acted as a  psychic cleaning service washing away any of those souring thoughts about the world I had rejected.
This also meant that I could start new writing projects (click this to see what I'm talking about) and not only pick up the guitar again, but sing lead for the first time in my life.
My new band is called Ryland and The Bird and this time it's a very conscious decision to be a two piece.
It' raw pop with a hint of scuzzy blues and I love it. I thrash away at my guitar and whoop into the mike and my good friend Mr T- Bird Jones pounds the skins. We have both been in bands since we could grow facial hair and  the whole process of making music now of is one of ease and joy.  We're even thinking of getting an album together. But before you get your ears around  that, here's a funky little film, directed by Gary Wood of Radar Industries, for a song called "Coming Around Again." Enjoy.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Stone Cold, Cold Classic.

A few years ago a book  popped up on the Guardian Best Reads  list called "Fifty Grand". Written by a Northern  Irish writer called Adrian McKinty,  it's about a Cuban police woman determined to get to the US and find the man that killed her father. It sounded great in the review.  I devoured it in a day and immediately sort out his earlier work. I'd found one of those special  writers that you tell people about in the pub, and when you see that person again they  have brought up everything they've written too. His prose is tough, his ear for dialogue is pitch perfect and the books have more twists and turns than a Blackpool big dipper.

Mckinty's new novel "The Cold, Cold Ground", doesn't disappoint,  in fact it's probably his best to date. Set in 1981 in Carrickfergus at the height of "the troubles" we follow D.S. Sean Duffy as he tries to hunt down a serial killer whose  motives seem to be sexual rather than political - the victims are all gay men with segments of  music scores inserted into their person. A Catholic in a predominantly Protestants  area, Duffy is an outsider who will stop at nothing to bring peace and find the killer. It's a shocking story that moves at breakneck speed about a time and place that most writers have ignored.

Mckinty  is a rare presence in the crime genre, he writes with a wit,  lyricism and intelligence that the majority of British and Irish crime writers lack - he reminds me more of   Daniel Woodrell than Ian Rankin. His heroes are  canny scrappers on the edge of their worlds, trying to right the wrongs they have been confronted with. And like Ellroy and Peace he has a purpose other than to entertain ( although he does that fantastically)  he uses history to tell his truth about  political corruption, the abuse of women and children or just the plain wrongness of society.
So get on amazon , order the "The Cold, Cold Ground" and then get down the pub and tell everyone about your secret, cause I suspect he won't be a secret for very much longer.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blimey. Has it really been over a year since I've blogged?  I assure you that it's not down to indolence but work load that I've not written anything for your perusal. Along with becoming a father I've been busy writing film scripts and treatments, ya know. I'm also completing the final module for my MA: a non fiction book about the rather fascinating and colorful  history of Sexology.
You can read all about it on my new blog here:

All Grown Up - The Lost Science of Sexology

In between projects I've also written a few short stories. Encouraged  by my good friend, the masterly short short story writer, Alan Beard and reassured of the form's validity  by Stuart Evers's "Ten Stories About Smoking" and Wells Towers' "Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned", I've decided to post a story that I wrote at the end of last year. I have to point out that it was written before I knew my wife was pregnant....
I hope you like it.

“A Sweet Tooth.” By Ryan Davis

Grandpa died a few weeks ago. I sat alone with him surround by the white curtains on the ward and felt his hand go limp as the morphine padded something unbearable inside.
            He’d left my older brother Pete his arm chair. My mom got his books and records and he’d left me a small amount of money, which would come in handy for me and Shell, for Barny’s clothes and food. Don’t get me wrong, I love Barney so much, but I swear his tantrums are getting worse- he spat at me the other day and told me to leave the house. Shell’s become like some zombie slave for him - twenty four seven. The trip to give Pete the chair was a legitimate opportunity to get out the house and away from it all for a while.
Pete used to live down the road in a similar terrace to us. After writing a fly fishing game app in his bedroom that went on to sell over a hundred thousand, what he called “Unit’s”, Pete wrote a few more and sold the company.
“It wasn’t for a lot, he said “only a couple of million- I could have held out for more but I’m not greedy.”
“You could be in the Bahamas now, you idiot!” I said then laughed, hoping he thought I was joking.
Now Pete had moved to some confectionary of a cottage in the Cotswolds that seemed to be woven together by roses and whipped cream, with Annie and her Swedish- blonde hair, her long, brown body, a dog called Thompson, no kid - not yet- and an unlimited amount of time to think of what he wanted to do next with his money and life.
I have to say, it was an enviable position. My own attempt to set up an online booze store last year failed. After a conversation I had with him about the letters from the bank I thought Pete would come forward and offer a helping hand but they seemed to stay firmly in his pockets. He had lent me money to get my teeth fixed last year and I was still paying him back, so maybe that was why. Anyway, it was back to network support and getting as many late shifts as I could.
To leave the lights of the city and disappear into black motorway that ran through the country side was like opening the door from a steam room and feeling the cool tiles on your feet. For a while the road was clear but a car crash near Gloucester meant I was stuck in traffic for three hours and by the time I came to turn off I was sick of the drive time DJ, thirsty and bursting for a pee.
Annie opened the door looking all “city girl gone country”, decked out in Hunters and a blue and white stripy shirt.
            “Hello.” She said looking the chair up and down.
            “Granddad’s chair?” I said.
            “Oh…” she squinted, she was looking at the warn yellow fabric, thinning on the arms.
“”Well.I’ve got nowhere to put it. Can’t you put it in the garage?”
            I dumped the chair in the musty garage and walked back over the icy tarmac  to the kitchen aching to pee. I apologised again for being late, explained about the crash and being stuck in the car for hours. Annie nodded harassed, and began looking for her handbag.
            “ Pete’s out night fishing and I’m off to the village AGM. I’m in a bit of a rush?” she said slipping on her coat.
Annie had never liked me. I don’t know why.  May be my lack of ambition? My lack of money? My fondest for a good time? My past failures?
            “Lady of the Manor these days!” I said. I Iiked to joke around with her.
She pursed her lips, flashed a sour smile.
“I’m really, really late, Dan.” She pulled a pink bottle out of her bag, crossed herself with its  sherbet-y  perfume and slid  it back in. The sweet smell filled the house, but it didn’t suit her at all. If Shell wore it, it would smell good. It was more suited to Shell.
She locked up, slipped into her car and drove off beeping the horn.
            Desperate now, I pissed in the empty bird bath on his expansive front lawn and started the drive back. The image of Pete chipping out the iron –hard block of yellow ice, wondering how it got there rolled over and over in my mind and I took myself by surprise every time I sniggered loudly as I drove  back down the dark motorway.
 At twelve o’clock, apart from the small Nigerian woman with a lisp who was on the Check-out I was the only other person in the service station.
I got a table by the giant window. There I was, reflected in the glass, a ghost of puffy eyes and thinning hair amongst the smudges made by toddler’s sticky fingers and their gluey mouths. I sipped my coffee and listened to the buzz of the overhead air con and crackle of the fountain. It felt joyful hearing those simple sounds; white noise, so undemanding and so far from Barny’s squeals and needs.
 Then that peace was broken by the sound of a heavy diesel engine. A rusting, powder-blue transit van pulled up in the car park. The side door slid opened and a rucksack was thrown out followed by a girl. She was in her early twenties with white and pink striped hair that reminded me of Coconut Ice sweets. She wore faded black jeans, clunky, black un -laced boots and a white vest that was tight over her small breasts. Her plump arms were covered in a rainbow of tattoos.
As the van drove off the girl spat on its back door then ran after it, her breath visible in the cold night air, banging her fist on the side. She was just about to reach the driver’s window when it gained momentum and slipped away, out on to the light studded motorway. She yelled something at the empty road like it was a person, grabbed her bags and made her way in to the restaurant.
Even though it was just me and the counter girl, she placed her bags down in front of the coffee machine with a flourish and a loud huff worthy of a larger audience.  She plunged her hands into her pockets, routed around then pulled out the pockets themselves.
Then, she knelt down and began  scrambling through her bag throwing out its contents as she went: a multi-coloured Indian scarf, a grey towel, many white vest tops, batches of  black rolled up socks, a box of  Tampax, small white pants and then two  blocks of Dairy Milk chocolate - a party size and a regular sized one. The regular sized bar left the bag with such a force that it slid across the white tiles and landed at my feet.
I didn’t say anything for a moment, guessing she would notice. She sat on her now empty bag, head in hands, surrounded by what looked to be her whole life.
            “Do you need some change for the machine?”
            She lifted her head.
I could see her face clearly now: a small high nose, full lips that fell into an austere pout and big, blue teary eyes.
            “No. I’ve got some money somewhere I just can’t seem to find it...” She said and put her head back down.
I took a sip, wincing over the last dregs of the thick, syrupy coffee. My teeth where squeaking. After the fifteen fillings my dentist told me to stay clear of sugary drinks and snacks but I needed to stay awake and a coffee with three sugars was the only thing I was allowed to use these days to keep me going.
“I can buy you one, until you find it…your money I mean.”
            She didn’t move for a moment, for effect or for real, who knows? Then she sat bolt upright.
            “Ok. Great. Why not? Yeah I’ll will have one. It’s cold out there.”
She began gathering her things and pushing them back in her bag. I picked up the chocolate bar placed it on the table then went and brought the coffees.
 When I got back she was in the chair adjacent mine with the bigger bar of Dairy Milk torn open and a triangle of chunks broken off.
            “Thank you so much.” she said.
            I smiled and handed her the cup.
            “What a fuckin’ nightmare!” she said and began sipping from the top of the streaming cup.
            “You lost your lift?”
            “Lost my lift… lost my boyfriend.” She snapped off chunk and began chewing on it.
            “And now you’re left here.”
            “Now I’m here. Thanks again for the coffee.” she looked at me with an inquisitive frown.
“You’re not one of these men who hang around places like this, waiting for girls like me are you?”
I sat back in my chair. One of those men?
“No.” I said shaking my head, smiling gently, so that I didn’t look like I was over compensating. Then I gave her a “Like, duh,” look. I tore open three sachets of sugar at once and tipped them in to my cup. For some reason I couldn’t say I was going home to my wife and baby boy.
“I’ve just got back from a conference about a new app I’m developing. I’m here to freshen up.”
I put the spoon in and stirred
“Freshen up. OK…” .The girl raised her eyes at the stack of empty sachets of sugar “That’s freshening up, eh …”
She held her hand to her mouth and laughed.
Her hair was greasy. She had a shiny red spot on her forehead, but other than that her skin was without a blemish, almost liquid. She was good looking, but I didn’t find her attractive until that moment she was opposite me and began to speak.  I could smell the chocolate on her breath, see the tackiness of it sticking her tongue to the roof of her mouth and something flipped inside me.
“Fair enough.” she said.
“More to the point, do I have to worry about you?”
“That’s up to you.” She said raising a thick mousy eyebrow.
“You’ve been dumped?”
“I pissed in his beer tonight.” She sniggered looking around the room.
“Really? I pissed in my brothers’ bird bath.”  I smiled.
“Nice…” she said coolly with a co-conspirators nod. “He was bringing girls on stage and singing to them…can you believe that?”  
            Her left arm was taken up mostly by a large red heart tattoo in an elaborate green frame. In the middle was written “Robin 4 Jocelyn 4 ever”. At the top of her arm, above a TB jab scar was the name of a local band I recognised - it looked like it had been composed with a compass and an ink cartridge.
            “Don’t say you’re a fan of The Creators.”
            She looked at her shoulder.
            “Yeah. Robin, the lead singer is my, was, my boyfriend. He did that for me.” She ran her thumb over it.
            “But aren’t they, like, a skinhead band?”
            “Yeah.” She shrugged and took another chuck of chocolate.
            The Creators had been going since the eighties and their gigs were known to be hateful affairs.  BNP supporters pushing each other around to racist chants. Gay bashing lyrics and songs of hate. Robin must have been at least twenty years older than her.
            “Ok…” I said, loading the word with as much disapproval as I could muster.
            “No, well, it’s just good music you know. I don’t really listen to the lyrics…If you want to know, we argue a lot. It’s part of our relationship. We’re what you call, fiery”
She was getting a little defensive now.
            “No, no… “ I said “I just wondered about the tattoo , that’s all.”
            “I don’t agree with what he sings. He says he doesn’t really mean it these days anyway. Most of it is for the crowd.  Rob says he wouldn’t have an audience if he sang about peace and harmony. He’d be out of a job.”
            Back when we were teenagers my brother was beaten up by Creators fans.  He’d gone night fishing and a load of pissed up skinheads threw him in the canal. He said he remembered their t-shirts  and their heads shining yellow in the street lamp as he looked up from the water.
            Talking about Robin was getting her upset. I wanted to say, well, why doesn’t he just join another band? Change direction if he’s not that bothered?
But what I said was,
“How could you love someone so angry and attention seeking?”
She stared at me like I was an idiot.
            “Look, I’m not a racist.” she said glancing over her shoulder at the car park “we’ve been together five years. It’s got nothing to do with that. Anyway…this is the last time he does this. The. Last. Time. I’ve had enough…”
She took another chunk of chocolate. We talked some more.
She told me Robin was her first and only boyfriend. He’d never been violent with her, never seen him be violent with anyone. Looked after his mom too.  They wanted to start a family next year.  She went silent for a while as she chewed on the last block of chocolate, nodding, as if willing what she’d just said into life. Then she looked blankly at her coffee and told me her friend lived the other side of town. She would have to call her if she wanted to get back tonight. I said town was on the way and I would drop her back if she wanted. She smiled then leant over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Her lips were warm and soft. The chocolate on her breath and the smoke and shampoo smell of her hair was like the perfume from a bouquet of wild flowers. I felt my face flush with heat. It was a feeling that I thought I’d left behind a long time ago.
I knocked back my coffee and looked at the time.
I told the girl I just needed to use the toilet and then we could go.
 As I stood at the urinal I had this shiver in my chest, like something amazing would happen. That something I never knew existed would be in the taste of her tongue. A sweet danger, laden with something fresh that I never thought I’d want or that I’d need. Something that would lift me up beyond this world, that would make things better. I peed as quickly as possible and washed my hands trying to avoid my reflection as much as I could.
When I came out her seat was empty. I walked over to the table and through the window I saw the blue van grind away, puffing balls of black smoke in its wake.
On the table she’d left the smaller bar of chocolate. I put it in my pocket, cleared the cups and made my way to my car.
Sad country ballads played from the radio and the sugar and caffeine comedown had hit. A sugar crash. I was feeling tired and my vision started to blur a little. My thoughts were drifting back to the service station and the girl and I felt an ache in my stomach. I looked down at the chocolate bar, laying across the passenger’s seat then up at the large, illuminated blue sign - only sixteen miles till home.
 I flicked on the air con. Turned the dial up to” Maximum” in the blue section and let it blast my eyes.
It wasn’t cold enough, so I wound down all the windows. A frozen wind mobbed the car howling out the sound of the radio, clawing at my face and my hair.
I looked back down at the chocolate bar and picked it up. I felt its inconsiderable weight in my hand, then leant over and put it in the glove compartment. I turned back to the road, pushed my foot on the accelerator and watched the speedo rise.
 If I stayed like this I knew I could just about make it back home to my family.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Who is Harry Nilsson and Winter's Bone

Harry Nilsson ? Who he? He sang "Everybody's Talkin' ", you know, from "Midnight Cowboy". You may have heard him sing a song that most people think Mariah Carey wrote called "Without You." Well here comes the shocker - he wrote it ( Correction alert! Badfinger wrote it! Soz.)along with loads of other wonderful and sometimes wobbly- weird songs. If you want to know more about this seriously underrated songwriter you can watch the new documentary that is coming to all good cinemas soon called "Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?"

Also it's great to see one of the film's I'd mentioned in a previous blog , "Winter's Bone" getting great reviews, and , hold ya breath, a UK release Can't wait to see it.